Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the largest fish and seafood wholesale market in the world. The market processes around 700,000 metric tons of seafood each year, worth roughly US $5.5 billion dollars.
Every morning at 3:00am, the prized tuna are unloaded and their value is estimated. At 5:30am, the tuna auctions gets underway. Only licensed buyers are allowed to bid and are usually agents for restaurants and large retailers. A limited number of visitors are allowed to watch the auctions.
After getting up at the crack of dawn to secure my spot, I donned the required neon green vest and followed my small group to a large warehouse where giant tuna were laid out on the ground. Soon, the auctioneers climbed onto stools, some ringing bells and others dancing to signal the start of the auction. Then they yelled out in rapid-fire Japanese to the crowd of potential bidders. I couldn’t understand a word but it sure was exciting!
After the auctions ended, I walked around the stalls of the Tsukiji outer market to kill time before the restaurants opened. I saw all manner of seafood for sale, from crabs to sea cucumbers and one very unhappy octopus.
Once it was time for breakfast, my Japanese-speaking friend asked a shopkeeper for a recommendation. They directed us to a hidden gem and, regretfully, I didn’t catch the name. I went with a bowl of mixed sushi over rice so I could try a little of everything. The shrimp were plump and crisp while the giant crab legs were tender and sweet. There was tuna and squid and several pieces of white fish, all delicious. But the highlight was the toro, or fatty tuna. With marbling that resembles raw beef, toro is one of the most expensive types of sushi and is worth every penny.