Updated: Feb 23
The Tsukiji fish market is a must stop tourist destination for anyone that loves seafood. However, be aware that when you leave you just might think the worlds fisheries are in real trouble.
Japan is one of my all time favorite places to visit. The people, the culture, the countryside and of course the sushi. Sushi is without a doubt my favorite type of food. I am a snob of the highest order when it comes to sushi having been served the finest fish from the likes of Jiro and other notable chefs. So when it came time to visit one of the places where these chefs procure their materials I jumped at the opportunity. In all honesty, I begged to be taken there as I was in Japan on other business at the time.
When you first step into the market you are immediately struck by the sheer size of the place and the ungodly amount of ocean creatures who were unfortunate enough to had made there way into whatever contraption that captured them. Dead, alive and everything in between. They're all there to be bought or sold. The sheer volume of fish would floor you. It's said the market sells more than 400 different types of seafood and almost 1,800 tons are sold every day. Again, every day! And this is the second largest seafood market in the world. The other (Toyosu Market) is in Japan as well. This is when it hits you, and your enthusiasm turns to concern as you start to question yourself and mankind.
Is commercial fishing being done responsibly and is it sustainable?
The truth is not really, even though the industry will say otherwise. Fishing is big business, and generally the dollars and consumer demand outweigh overall concern. This is common is all industries. That said, I believe the Japanese will be at the tip of the spear when it comes to developing new ways to preserve and protect the oceans and its inhabitants. They better, because their very way of life depends on it.
Now I'm definitely not here to judge or paint the Japanese in a less than flattering light. On the contrary, I believe them to be an honorable people in transition like so many other countries are these days. The majority of countries are struggling to figure out new ways to feed the worlds populations while maintaining healthy economies. I am confident the Japanese, like the rest, will find a pathway to achieving some sort of balance between the worlds fisheries and their populations appetite.
In closing, the market is a wonderful place that taught me more in one day about seafood than I could have possibly imagined. It hums at a moderate pace and there are plenty of things to see and do. If you like fish it's like going to the Super Bowl or attending a World Cup final. Okay, maybe that's exaggerating a bit but it is a bucket list attraction if you're ever in Tokyo.