Photo by myself, from the Tsukiji Fish Market, in Tokyo.
Mark and I, freshly jet-lagged, woke up Monday morning at 4:30 to visit the Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo.
Above, just one of the many, many aisles inside a warehouse full of makeshift stalls. There were lights and scales strung up, and tiny booths that served as offices. It's hard to imagine that we witnessed a typical day there. Apparently the market process a total of 2,000 tons of fish every day.
The main event is a tuna auction, where tuna is bought for resale and restaurant use. Mark and I did not attend. Our guidebook says that limited spots are available for visitors. While in the warehouse, we were startled by a handtruck bearing two enormous tuna, tails cut off and put in their mouths.
Stalls are lined up in hodgepodge rows. Most of the workers are men.
Tuna is cut into pristine blocks with care. Some stalls employed bandsaws to cut larger fish, while others cut fish by hand.
The experience is not for the faint of heart. While tip toeing around, Mark and I saw vats filled wriggling baby eels, while large eels swam back and forth in tanks. Most of the fish were not alive, and were either lying about or packed neatly in styrofoam containers, ready for transport.
We saw gorgeous red snapper, sea urchin, sea cucumber, lobster and clams. There were fish I'd never seen before, some small and silvery, others long and thin. It was quite overwhelming to realize that just a couple hours prior, these beautiful creatures were in the sea.
Most fish were separated and arranged in styrofoam containers.
Since we'd arrived early, there were few other visitors there. As the morning wore on, we noticed larger groups. Generally the workers paid us no mind. I had the distinct feeling that we were tolerated.
After walking about, we settled into a tiny food stand outside for a breakfast of fresh sashimi and sushi. Unfortunately the restaurant did not permit photos.
Raw fish at 6 am? It was a fitting tribute to the fish.
For a video look at the Tsukiji Fish Market, check out the video I posted earlier, here.
New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.
Related posts: Ye Olde Pub, Downtown, On the Soup Station and Snow and Colorful Eats at Kelly and Ping, SoHo.