The Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. Every year it handles half-a-million tonnes of seafood and generates more than $20 billion in revenue.
The market is also a major attraction for foreign visitors – which is actually going to be its downfall !
The “inner market” (jōnai-shijō) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (around 900 of them) operate small stalls.
The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from seaweed to the most expensive caviar, huge tuna and controversial whales.
After the auctions end around 7am the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market.
Frozen tuna and swordfish are often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives (some well over a meter in length) called oroshi-hōchō, maguro-bōchō, or hanchō-hōchō.
The Great Kantō earthquake on September 1, 1923, devastated much of central Tokyo, including the Nihonbashi fish market. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the market was relocated to the Tsukiji district and, after the construction of a modern market facility was completed in 1935, the fish market began operations. The Tsukiji Fish Market is a famous landmark in Tokyo, and has been in the same spot for eight decades, however this is soon to end. Despite being spread over 20 hectares, the old facility is congested and crowded. In the next few years Tsukiji will sadly be moved out of the city to a new site on in Tokyo bay.