Tokyo's Dramatic Lure
Tsukiji, the world's largest fish market, is also the world's finest fish theater -- a daily drama you can witness for free in Tokyo.
Tourists line up at Tsukiji, (pronounced tsu-kee-jee), a Tokyo fish market that distributes more than 2,200 tons of seafood daily to restaurants, regular customers and foreign visitors alike.
Japanese fishmongers inspect frozen tuna fish. Every night, seafood from all over the world is delivered to the market by tankers, trucks and airplanes.
More than 40,000 people buy and sell about 450 species and varieties of fish, including the frozen tuna shown here, at the market's 1,500-plus stalls.
A bell is rung to begin an auction for frozen tuna. The Tsukiji auctioneers will launch into a rhythmic chanting and move slowly through the room, flanked by several men with notepads who take buyers' orders.
An auctioneer sells frozen tuna. The market runs a series of auctions -- for frozen and fresh tuna, for sea urchins, shrimp and dried fish -- but the tuna auction is the most popular with tourists. The auctions begin before 5 a.m.
The lure of Tsukiji is the live theater where visitors can walk through the maze of stalls; squeeze by tanks filled with wriggling sea creatures; observe frozen tuna being sawed into pieces; watch live fish go to the chopping block; hear people yell to each other and see water squirt up from clams and crustaceans.
Fishmongers transport frozen tuna fish. The workers are remarkably tolerant of tourists, but reached their limit last year when a tourist reportedly licked the head of a tuna. Now visitors are cordoned off to protect the merchandise from public displays of affection.
An intermediate fish wholesaler cuts tuna fish at the market.
Dangerous machinery requires visitors to obey specific rules. They must: watch for trucks and trolleys; visit in groups of five or less; wear closed-toe shoes and follow other directions. It is up to visitors to get out of the way of careening carts and the occasional escaped eel.
Workers cut fresh tuna fish. Once inside the warehouse, visitors can wander among the stalls, but must be mindful of the people who are there to conduct business.
A Japanese man carries tuna fish meat in a basket to the market. Beyond the fish market, an outer market offers sushi shops, tempura and noodle stalls, pottery and kitchenware.
Men look at tuna fish meat at one of the market's wholesalers. The market opens before dawn, but unless visitors want to see the auction, they should go after 8 a.m., when the pace begins to slow. By late morning, the market is packing up and shutting down.
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