After 83 years Tsukiji Fish Market held its final auction last Friday. The world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji deals in over 480 different types of fish and transacts over 14 billion yen a day. One of the omono (big items) of the market is tuna; a 400 kg (800lb) tuna fetched over 33 million yen ($300,000) this past Friday.
Tsukiji Fish Market is delineated by its inner market, where the auctions are held and professional business is conducted, and the outer market designed for the average consumer to enjoy fresh fish, vegetables and other goods designed to tempt the most savvy of tourists. The operations that spill out into the outer market merely hint at what happens inside. Some of the freshest sushi in Tokyo can be found at the food stalls and restaurants in the outer market. We fully embraced the experience and sidled up to a sushi counter at 9 am redefining breakfast for champions. At 11 am the inner market opens for tourists. All the action of the day is long done but remnants of work and clean up can be witnessed. I saw a vendor discuss the quality of the tuna to four interested women. Four ounces were marked at 33,000 yen ($300). They chatted and hemmed and hawed for over 30 minutes, finally deciding to make the purchase. There were more tourists than vendors but walking amongst the stalls, seeing the resulting calm after the flurry, the vendors paying me no mind I felt like I was somehow witnessing it all. Something so ordinary for them, so extraordinary for me.
Imagine what Tokyo looked like in 1935. A war, a recovery, a rebuilding since, an embrace of technology with skyscrapers defining the city and then you have Tsukiji Fish Market, sitting just as it did 83 years ago. Some have concerns about the sanitation and safety of the market but the nostalgia, the isolation in time not only defines the market but fills a need in locals and tourists alike who want to witness something steadfast.
We visited in July, in its 83rd year, months before closing. My kids will be able to tell their kids that they experienced Tsukiji Fish Market back when.