Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

loading tuna at the tsukiji fish market
*UPDATE 12/27/06* I uploaded the whole lot of photos to Flickr [see them].

Wendy and I woke up at 4:45am yesterday and hopped onto the first train to Tsukiji's wholesale fish market. Most websites say that the tuna auction has been closed to the public since May of 2006, but that's not exactly true. The main floor of the tuna auction is off-limits for visitors, but there is a narrow hallway in the middle of the floor where you can stand to observe the proceedings.

Before the auction starts, prospective buyers walk around the floor and use metal hooks to pull back the open flap of flesh near the tail of each tuna in order to inspect its quality. A long ringing of a bell signals the start of each auction, and the veteran auctioneers stand up on a little platform and start fist-pumping, vibrating, and emitting repeated bursts of noise in a special language used to auction off fish. It was sort of like a cross between gospel preaching and rapping!

The tuna auction area may not be easy to find, so go early. The first train may or may not get you there on time, so taking a cab might be a better approach. When you enter the market, keep walking along the covered truck path until you reach the very end, where you'll see some warehouses. Look for a small sign that says "Visitor Entry." Don't get run over by the small, motorized vehicles that are shooting around everywhere... [see all photos at flickr]

tuna at the tsukiji market
tuna on the auction floor, tsukiji market

tuna at the tsukiji market
prospective buyers inspect the tuna for its quality

detail: eel bath

detail: cuttlefish