Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Largest Fish and Seafood Market in the World

Photograph by river seal

The Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. It’s also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors.

Tsukiji moves about five million pounds (2,268,000 kilograms) of seafood every day—seven times as much as Paris’s Rungis, the world’s second largest wholesale market, and 11 times the volume of New York City’s Fulton Fish Market, the largest fish market in North America. In dollar terms, that comes to about $28 million USD worth of fish per day.

There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The inner market (jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place. It is also where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls.

The outer market (jogai shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood. There are also plenty of restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.

Photograph by Foodieguide

The market opens most mornings except Sundays and holidays at 3:00 am, with the arrival of the products by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. It imports from 60 countries on six continents. The market is the busiest between 5:30 and 8:00 am, and the activity declines significantly afterward. Many shops start to close around 11:00 am, and the market closes for cleaning around 1:00 pm.

Auctions start around 5:20 am. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants such as, intermediate wholesalers who operate stalls in the marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers. The auctions usually end around 7:00 am. Afterward, 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.
Photograph by x-girl

The present system of wholesale market in Japan has two features:
1. Local governments found and manage their central wholesale markets
2. Prices are fixed on the basis of auction regardless of volume of transaction

This is a unique system in the world; the law restricts transactions in the markets to maintain impartiality.
Before central wholesale markets were established, most prices had been negotiated in secret between sellers and buyers. This led to unfair transactions and placed producers and consumers under disadvantages.

Photograph by Jad 23

There are 88 central wholesale markets in 56 cities in Japan.
- 54 markets for fish
- 5 markets for fruits and vegetables
- 19 markets for flowers
- 10 markets for meat

Photograph by Chris 73

Pictures above and below is the Oroshi Hocho. A long knife with a blade length of 150 cm (60 inches) in addition to a 30 cm (12 inch) handle. It can fillet a tuna in a single cut, although usually two to three people are needed to handle the knife and the tuna. The flexible blade is curved to the shape of the spine to minimize the amount of meat remaining on the tuna chassis. The hancho hocho is the shorter blade with a length of around 100 cm (39 inches) in addition to the handle.

Photograph by Derek Mawhinney
Photograph by Yelena YK

During the first auction of 2010, a tuna was sold for 16.28 million yen ($175,000 USD), the highest price paid in Japan in nine years. The bluefin tuna weighed 232 kg - nearly four times as much as the average Japanese man. It was caught off the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, in waters famed for high quality fish.

The tuna was bought jointly by one of the city’s most upmarket restaurants, and an entrepreneur from Hong Kong who runs a chain of sushi bars. Last year a similar fish made less than 10 million yen. (source: BBC)

Photograph by Yelena YK


Photograph by Eric Boyles
Photograph by AndyHiggins

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