Tsukiji Market was at the top of my list of things to do when I visited Tokyo, Japan. This wholesale market of fish, vegetables, and fruit is widely known and open to the public. However, I didn’t want to go for the souvenirs or the sushi. I wanted to go to witness how this beast of a market functioned and why so many people were enamored with it.
When you enter the market you are instantly thrown into its chaos. Workers are shouting orders to each other, forklifts carry crates barrel towards you, and the tide of tourists engulfs you. Even though this might sound overwhelming it is oddly very comforting. I felt the need to walk in farther to discover what lay hidden in each sellers stall.
I perused the labyrinth of stalls selling fresh cut sashimi, shellfish, octopus, fish being bid off to the highest paying costumer, and frozen fish that were being sawed into filets. Well, with all of this fresh fish, there needs to be someway to transport it to the wholesale buyers. This is where the mountains of white styrofoam boxes and lockers full of ice chunks come into play. I watched the entire process of a man buying a box, getting a piece of ice cut for that specific box, and then proudly carrying it into a stall to have the order be put into it to transport.
After I had my fair share of looking at seafood, I headed back to the souvenir stalls and restaurants that lay on the outskirt of the seafood market. Most people come to Tsukiji Market for the world famous sushi. There were massive lines of people just waiting to get into the tiny sushi shops. I decided to pass on this experience, but if you are an avid sushi eater, please take the time to wait in line and try your share of the freshest sushi on this planet.
Since staring at people is rude, I continued my exploration of the market through the many shops selling kitchen supplies and ingredients. Chopsticks and knives seemed to be one of the most popular items being sold with spices and dried seaweed right behind them. The shop owners are masters at their art and tried to convince me that I needed that special shiny knife in my kitchen. If I did not buy it, my sushi would not taste good, so they said. Unfortunately, I was flying back to China where I did not think it would pass through customs, so I stuck to buying some chopsticks and decorative toothpicks instead.
You do not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the Tsukiji Market. If you make it to the market before eleven o’clock you should be just fine. Dodge forklifts and small carts as you weave yourself in and out of the market stalls and warehouses. Wait in line for the freshest sushi of your life. Buy a knife and learn how to be a sushi master in the comforts of your own home!