Tsukiji fish market

With its roots in the Edo Era, Tokyo’s Tsukiji is one of the world’s biggest wholesale markets, handling nearly ninety percent of the city’s impressive seafood needs.

Tsukiji is famous for its pre-daybreak tuna auctions, where the giant fish trade for huge sums in the blink of an eye, but the daily life of the market warrants nearly as much attention. After the auctions (but still very early) the pulse of the market continues to race, with wholesalers cutting the fresh tuna with knives as long as swords and the frozen tuna with bandsaws; eels and lobsters still alive and wriggling in styrofoam crates; and market workers pushing hand carts down the narrow alleys between stalls full to overflowing with every kind of seafood imaginable.

A visit to the market is best begun with the breathless spectacle of the tuna auctions just after 5 a.m., which can be watched from special viewing areas, and finished several hours later with a breakfast of the freshest sushi possible at one of the restaurant stalls in the bustling retail market outside the main building. Tsukiji’s is, however, first and foremost a place of business, and wholesalers and middle men will expect visitors to make way for them, and not vice versa.