Elisabeth Sherman

Mostly closed to the public, the biggest fish market in the world is an almost impossible ticket to get.

Elisabeth Sherman
July 17, 2017

The Tsukiji Fish Market in Toyko has become one of the hardest to visit places in the city. As the world’s largest fish market, it was once a popular tourist attraction, but it’s recently been shielded from the prying eyes of curious visitors and their cameras, because they got in the way of the busy fish mongers cleaning, slicing, and preparing their catches of the day for sale. 

Just 120 people are allowed in the market per day to witness of their infamous tuna auctions, otherwise few other outsiders can gain entry without permission. While staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo this past June, I had the opportunity to tour the market using a special pass acquired by my guide under secretive circumstances.

My group weaved down a narrow stone walkway, sidestepping the motorized carts that sped through the market without a care for any tourist who might be standing in the way, their cargo—Styrofoam containers filled with sometimes frozen, sometimes still swimming fish—balanced precariously behind them. It’s immediately clear visitors are an unwelcome nuisance, but a few sideways glances from the workers are worth it for a peak inside.

The briny smell of salty sea water hangs over the market—Men wearing worn rubber boots wielding huge cleavers, reaching into icy buckets for wriggling fish. Fish, shrimp, prawns, squid, octopus, and bigger-than-you-thought-possible tuna—it’s all there, laid out on ice, scales gleaming, eyes bulging, mouths agape. The market certainly does force one to look their food in the eye. 

Here, some of sights from my visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Elisabeth Sherman

On the way into the market, I spotted some invidually packaged strawberries. 

Elisabeth Sherman

Fresh tuna so red and thick they look like beef steaks. 

Elisabeth Sherman

We stopped by one stall for a hearty breakfast of raw, freshly caught fish, which we ate straight from this box wiht chopticks. 

Elisabeth Sherman

As we ate, a woman carved clams out of their shelves nearby. 

Elisabeth Sherman

There were rows and rows of these boxes of upturned ocoptus. 

Elisabeth Sherman

More octopus. 

Elisabeth Sherman

A massive tuna, sliced down the middle, on display like a trophy. 

Elisabeth Sherman

Heaps of shrimp and prawns wiggled helplessly in the shallow water of these plastic containers. 

Elisabeth Sherman

 A group of squid sealed inside a Styrofoam container. 

Elisabeth Sherman

A wide view of the market's stalls.