Saturday, October 6th is the last day the Tsukiji Fish Market will close ending its 83-year run as one of the largest fish markets in the world.
“The market in Chuo Ward opened in February 1935 after wholesale markets in the capital, including a fish market in the Nihonbashi district, were ruined by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.” More than 500 varieties of seafood can be found there each day with an estimated 90% of all of Japan’s seafood going through this market.
We have visited this location several times on our trip to Japan and it is amazing to see the intricacy of the stalls but yet thousands of workers are zipping throughout the market.
Once in the market, you had best be very watchful otherwise you might end up underneath one of these speeding carts loaded with seafood.
The daily tuna auction, except Sunday and holidays, was always a big draw for tourists. Seeing dozens of fresh and frozen tuna being bid by multiple wholesalers was both fast and furious.
Another attraction were the number of shops surrounding the market. From restaurants, to knife shops there was something for everyone.
The Tsukiji Fish Market closing is not without controversy however, as many of the long-term vendors are vehemently against moving the market. “If the new place were better, I’ll be happy to move,” said Tai Yamaguchi, whose family has run fish wholesaler Hitoku Shoten since 1964. The 75-year-old leader of a group of 30 women whose families run shops in Tsukiji opposed to the move, Yamaguchi feels it has been mishandled by authorities who failed to fully consult those affected. “They are hiding so much,” she said.
“Tsukiji now has more than 500 wholesalers employing several thousand people. About 40,000 people visit each day. Much of the angst over the move has to do with closing down a beloved local institution.
A labyrinth of quaint sushi stalls and shops selling knives and ice cream encircling the huge wholesale market famous for its predawn haggling over deep-frozen tuna and other harvests from the sea, Tsukiji has been supplying Tokyo’s fancy restaurants and everyday supermarkets since 1935. Its origins date back nearly a century.
Opponents of the move fear tourists will be less likely to visit out-of-the-way Toyosu, which resembles a huge, modern factory and lacks the picturesque quality of Tsukiji.
Makoto Nakazawa, 54, who has worked in Tsukiji for more than 30 years, said he dislikes the new space he will be working in and is angry over the closure of a market that has “fed Tokyo for years.””
As with any significant change, small vendors are more likely to be hurt by this move and those shops will certainly take a huge hit in business.
The Tsukiji Fish market has been a staple of fresh fish for Tokyo and beyond since 1935 and it is sad to see it close for what will likely be just more apartments, shops or something that will not have the memories and special feelings of this market. For those of us who have had the opportunity to visit this amazing place, we are sad it is closing but thankful for the many memories we have. We also wonder where Jiro Ono will get his fresh fish everyday? Well it seems the new market is not too far away!