HOME > Chowhound > Japan >
Are you making a specialty food? Share your adventure

"Tsukiji- Fishy Business"

Silverjay Apr 11, 2008 07:09 AM

An article in The Economist confirms what many of us know already- that Tsukiji as a tourist destination is a double-edged sword for Japan and that, it seems for the most part, has become too much for the market to handle. The story mentions the proposed move to Toyosu in a couple of years, although in the comments section of the story, someone notes that the move was pushed back further. Most likely, the inner stalls and real operating part of the market as a wholesale destination will become limited to commercial individuals and rationed to only select tours/journalistst/etc. The first time I went to the market, more than ten years ago, it wasn't so bad. These days, I feel sorry for the vendors. Perhaps areas on the outer portion of the market will become like Hakodate's, which is a sort of "market experience" with stalls selling gift packages.?.?...Anyway, here's the article-


  1. Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. pinstripeprincess Apr 14, 2008 07:44 AM

    i visited a couple weeks back and i can't agree more that the tourists are seriously getting in the way. obviously there's a hypocritical edge to it but we did try to get out of there as quick as possible and were as aware of our surroundings as possible. by one of the tuna auctions i had to yell at a crowd of people taking photographs to let a guy with a cart through because they were oblivious that they were taking up the entire entranceway even though they were standing right in the middle.

    some people don't quite seem to get that this is a daily living, not some gimmicky sideshow.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pinstripeprincess
      lost squirrel Apr 14, 2008 08:16 PM

      I agree with the hypocritical nature. I like going there and seeing the sights, sometimes it's even fun to wait in line for Dai or Daiwa but I feel guilty as well.

      1. re: lost squirrel
        Robb S Apr 14, 2008 08:42 PM

        Well there's nothing wrong with eating at Tsukiji. There's an outer market that's designed for the public, and that's where the sushi shops are. It should be a fun tourist destination on its own, but all the guidebooks talk about is the inner market, which is a busy workplace and really shouldn't be promoted to tourists. I've been there only once in recent years, and it was just embarrassing.

        1. re: lost squirrel
          Silverjay Apr 14, 2008 08:47 PM

          The outer area, where the restaurants like Sushi Dai are, is not the issue. It's the inner vendor and auction sections that are the concern. This area will probably be off limits at some point in the near future.

          1. re: Silverjay
            skylineR33 Apr 14, 2008 09:26 PM

            You mean the outer area of the inner market, right ? Sushi Dai, Daiwa are located inside the inner market. Yes, the suituation of the inner market core (vendor/supplier/auction) are really crazy.


            1. re: skylineR33
              Robb S Apr 15, 2008 02:38 AM

              Ah, thanks for clarifying that - I had assumed all the restaurants were in the outer market by definition. But yes, going to the restaurants isn't the problem, hanging out in the inner core work area is.

      2. Sam Fujisaka Apr 14, 2008 09:58 PM

        I was last there 25 years ago. I think I'll just preserve my memories, with apologies to all of you non-geezer/geezerettes..

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
          pinstripeprincess Apr 15, 2008 07:17 AM

          i'm on the same track.... it was my first trip to japan and will be my only visit to tsukiji. while the sushi restos from the inner market were certainly quite nice... for their pricing and my own limited wallet, i was more than happy to dine at the tsukiji sushi sen location in ginza instead. besides, they were so much more happier to have my business that i even ended up being gifted a mug!

        2. Silverjay Apr 15, 2008 06:21 AM

          See attached layout map. It's the area colored in blue and called "Marine Products Section", probably the most interesting area, that will have to be regulated at some point. The yellow colored restaurant section or "飲食店街", which is on the outer area of the market, is not the problem. Most of those businesses are retail operations.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Silverjay
            Silverjay Apr 16, 2008 06:27 AM

            See attached photo of Tsukiji market's layout.- SJ

            1. re: Silverjay
              K K Apr 16, 2008 02:27 PM

              How does one pronounce "魚がし横丁" in Japanese?

              1. re: K K
                Silverjay Apr 16, 2008 04:53 PM

                Uogashi (魚がし) yokocho (横丁)

            2. l
              lost squirrel Apr 17, 2008 07:47 PM

              I just read that there will be a special cordoned off 'tourist section' for people to check out the tuna auction.
              Apparently it'll be open/available from 5 to 6:15am.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lost squirrel
                kamiosaki Apr 17, 2008 10:51 PM

                Where did you read that (can you post the URL, Nihongo is OK) - where + how will it be different from the existing one, other than the hours?

                1. re: kamiosaki
                  Robb S Apr 17, 2008 11:43 PM

                  Here's a notice from someone who gives tours in English:

                  The Tokyo Government that administrates the Tsukiji Market is restricting tourists strictly than before from April 1st, 2008.
                  This is affecting our tour.

                  --We can't take a look at the shrimp site anymore. We can't watch the sea urchin auction and the live fish auction. We sometimes are not able to watch the fresh fish auction, too. We have to watch the fresh tuna auction from a longer distance than before.

                  In terms of watching several kinds of auctions, I can't do it anymore. Instead, I have to concentrate more on things such as watching the middleman store area, explaining about the functions of the people working and facilities of the Market, etc.


                  Reuters via Straits Times: http://www.straitstimes.com/Free/Stor...

                  1. re: kamiosaki
                    lost squirrel Apr 20, 2008 08:21 PM

                    I just read it in the Metropolis, small print section.

                    It's just a blurb and they don't provide any links or background. I think most of the information comes from Japanese newspapers but I'm not sure.

                2. t
                  timwild Apr 21, 2008 04:56 AM

                  I just got back, and was happy enough to just have a quick wander around later in the day (about 8 am) and have some breakfast sushi. However, later in my trip I was in Katsuura, about 4 hours south of Osaka, where they not only land more tuna at the docks than they do in Tokyo, but also actively encourage visitors. I'm quoting a bit from local promotional fluff here, but as a way of seeing just how big the tuna can really be without pissing off honest fish traders, it might be a viable alternative.

                  1. b
                    bluedog Apr 27, 2008 05:12 PM

                    Huh. I was last there about 6 years ago and like Sam Fujisaka I'll just preserve my memories as well. Were some tourists, but mostly just people going about their daily business. PSP, sorry to hear it did not live up to expectation.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: bluedog
                      pinstripeprincess Apr 28, 2008 06:54 AM

                      i don't want to give the impression that i was disappointed with my visit, it certainly was not what i expected but was no less enjoyable at all. it just concerned me that this business had grown into a spectacle and without the market intending to be a tourist trap... it's slowly becoming one. the fish was delicious but are those sushi joints really getting anything better than what i'd find in ginza? likely not. so it's a lovely memory but i'm happy to stay out of their way as well.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess
                        Silverjay Apr 28, 2008 07:17 AM

                        It's well-known in Japan that the Tsukiji shops offer value and selection. This is why the domestic tourists are lining up. But the best neta goes to those who pay the most- i.e. the Jiro and Mizutani of the world. The quality of fish in those Ginza places is the best in the world or at least the best of anything that comes through that market.

                        1. re: Silverjay
                          pinstripeprincess Apr 28, 2008 07:20 AM

                          value? on the mixed sushi dishes then? because at $4 a piece of nigiri, i didn't feel that i found value.

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess
                            Silverjay Apr 28, 2008 07:36 AM

                            Value as in price for quality. And really, the only thing cheaper than $4/ nigiri would be kaiten-zushi around town. And the quality there decreases exponentially.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess
                              skylineR33 Apr 28, 2008 12:26 PM

                              Hi pinstripeprincess, $4 is really not that bad in Tokyo with the quality we get at Tsukiji shops. Jiro of Ginza or similar shop at Ginza charges $10 a piece of nigiri.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                kuidaore Apr 29, 2008 03:58 PM

                                prinstripeprincess, I'm kind of with you. For me, the quality of sushi at Tsukiji (jonai--Sushi Dai) was definitely not worth the 1.5hr wait. There's a better value jogai and elsewhere with no wait. In fact, many locals say so (most locals I know have never been to Tsukiji jonai) and a Tokyo associate insists that she has to take me to a better jogai place next time.

                                More than half the customers waiting at Sushi Dai and Daiwa were overseas tourists (many Chinese). I was amazed how good English a Sushi Dai worker spoke to manage the line outside. At a jogai coffee shop, a server asked me, "How do you say 'there are more tables in the back' in English? We get more and more overseas tourists and I need to learn English." Half the customers there were Western tourists. This is how touristy Tsukiji has become. I bet no one who works at Tsukiji ever thought they'd have to learn English!

                                For me, the world's best sushi is in Kita-ibaraki (2-hour train ride from Tokyo). I ate there the day after I ate at Sushi Dai. It was no comparison. The owner chef worked in Tsukiji 20 yrs ago and knows the owner of Sushi Dai. He doesn't think the quality at Tsukiji is what it used to be. He gets tuna and something else (I forgot) from Tsukiji, but the rest from somewhere else in Japan. Most shellfish is local (out of this world) and he buys uni only from Hokkaido. When I explained to him the uni I ate at Sushi Dai, he said that was most definitely an import. His uni (two different kinds from Hokkaido) was out of this world, unlike uni at Sushi Dai.

                                And his price is better than Tsukiji's (my client in Ibaraki was shocked at the price I paid at Tsukiji). I wouldn't go back to Tsukiji, at least jonai. Whether it's sushi or other kind of food, there's plenty of value available outside of Tokyo. Tokyo isn't a food destination for me.

                                1. re: kuidaore
                                  Sam Fujisaka Apr 29, 2008 07:21 PM

                                  So I'm very lucky: my Tokugawa Japanese that has now rusted beyon repair used at Tsukiji well before it became a tourist trap.

                                  1. re: kuidaore
                                    Silverjay Apr 30, 2008 06:54 AM

                                    "Tokyo isn't a food destination for me." Hilarious. Spoken like a true Osakan- kings of the "impact comment"...Anyway, there might be something to the notion that out of Tokyo and away from the need to buy from Tsukiji, there is better value and quality to be had. I had similar great sushi experiences in Hakodate last year. Everything was sourced locally except for maguro and a few others. The cost of my meals seemed criminal.

                                    The sushi economy is hard to get your head around though. Market economics dictate that no matter where it is coming from, the best neta will go to the highest bidder. So if you ate uni that was inexpensive in Ibaraki or Hokkaido, you were eating the best quality/ value uni. Not the best uni. The best uni will go to those Ginza shops who can buy high and sell high. At least that's the conventional wisdom- which is obviously dependent on the subjective evaluation of the neta by some guy in rubber boots at those early morning auctions.

                                    In the end though, I hope the government or the community can somehow preserve the real market, while at the same time offer a real culinary attraction for tourists of any ilk. But it will be tough. And even in Tokyo, there will probably always be much better places to eat sushi.

                                2. re: Silverjay
                                  rameniac Jun 6, 2008 10:05 PM

                                  I think there's also something to be said about eating sushi in the early morning, which is what lends to the appeal of the Tsukiji shops. Even if the top fish goes to Ginza, in addition to the Ginza prices, you're most likely going to be having your sushi for lunch or dinner, and the fish will have been on ice a few hours longer.

                                3. re: pinstripeprincess
                                  bluedog Apr 28, 2008 07:56 AM

                                  Where I found value was in the area around the market: about 1100 Yen for a bowl of uni on sushi rice at alittle stall for example. Almost all I could eat. Whether it was better than anywhere else, well highly depends on the restaurant (in other words not really). The times I was there were always in the middle of the week, and often in winter (i.e. not many tourists), so perhaps the same thing was true six years ago, I just didn't see it.

                                  Anyhow, sounds like your trip rocked!

                                  1. re: bluedog
                                    K K Apr 28, 2008 03:06 PM

                                    Based on a book I've read by local author Atsushi Koseki (translated in another language), there's definitely a lot of decent value and affordable non sushi eats by Tsukiji and environs

                                    from various restaruants specializing only in tempura to unaju, yakitori, Kappo style cuisine, cooked food places that serve great nimono like kinmedai nitsuke, hamburg steak/yoshoku, baitan mizutaki, tonkatsu, ramen, gyu-don (not just Yoshinoya), yakiniku, Japanese takes on Chinese dim sum, stores that specialize in tamago-yaki etc.

                                    As touristy as it may be, I'd definitely put it high on my to visit someday list (and of course to eat).

                                    1. re: K K
                                      Silverjay Apr 28, 2008 03:23 PM

                                      Good points. Actually, it was in Tsukiji that the first Yoshinoya opened many years ago.

                                      1. re: Silverjay
                                        K K Apr 29, 2008 10:59 AM

                                        And from what I read Yoshinoya at the very least at its flagship Tsukiji store, insists on using Japanese (local) beef (especially during the mad cow disasters).

                                        I saw a Japanese TV game show in Taipei earlier this year where the contestants do some chores for various Tsukiji vendor stalls and get to sample the food in return. Somewhere hidden away in one of the alleys is a shop that makes fresh ramen (noodles) and supplies too all the ramen shops nearby.

                                        The other shops are extremely interesting and impressive to say the least, from Hokkaido style salt cured salmon (canned versions too), cured fish roe blocks, kim chi, tsukemono and vegetables from Kyoto, katsuoboshi (shaved to order), knife stores, vendors that sell fresh wagyu of varying quality, fresh wasabi root, macha, fresh tofu cubes, manju, konbu and many many more.

                              2. E Eto Apr 29, 2008 12:12 PM

                                I'm not sure if people realize this, but there are two Tsukiji markets. One is the actual wholesale market, what is referred as "jonai" (the inner market). The other Tsukiji market is called the "jogai" (outer market), which is the retail market neighborhood, just a block or so north of the main market. These market stalls usually buy from the main market and process their bulk buys into smaller retail sized portions for the public. There are also plenty of places to eat in the outer market area, probably more than in the inner market (Sushi Dai, Daiwa Sushi, and most of the places mentioned with early morning sushi is in the inner market).

                                Some posters here seem to refer to shops in the outer market when talking about Tsukiji in general, so I thought I should point out the difference.
                                Here's a map: http://www.chuo-kanko.or.jp/english/t...

                                Show Hidden Posts