Bluefin Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Fish Market

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market is a market of epic proportions where you’re apt to see a few species you’ve never even heard of. It’s the size of  43 football fields and a stone throw away from Japan’s most expensive real estate in the Ginza shopping district.  Hence, you need to visit soon, as Tsukiji is set to close at it’s current location and move to a controversial new location.

At 4:00 in the morning I hailed a cab.  Twenty minutes (and 5000 yen ~ $75 dollars later) I arrived at the Northeast Corner near Harumi Dori bridge.

Even in the early morning darkness, a queue of twenty-five people awaited entrance – a new cap of 120 visitors means it is much more competitive to get a chance to witness the bluefin auction at 5:30.


Bluefin tuna are headed, gutted, flash frozen and then lined up on the auction room floor where they are examined for quality prior to bidding


Dry ice is placed on top to keep the fish frozen. These were the biggest bluefin to be auctioned that day. These would have been considered small just a decade ago.


Declining supply and increasing demand means the record price continues to climb. In 2012, a single bluefin tuna sold for an astounding $736,000 USD.


Once sold, the tuna are cut while frozen using bandsaws into loins. These loins are then sold to distributors then wholesalers and then, eventually, to restaurants or markets


The final product. Two pieces of o toro - the fatty belly cut - served nigiri style.


Products move around the market on the back of these machines at a dizzying pace


If the ocean contains it, chances are that it can be bought at Tsukiji Market. Here a vendor displays different types and sizes of octopus


Huge lines of trucks are parked at the market ready to transport product throughout Japan. This truck appears capable of transforming into Optimus Prime


Tsukiji Fish Market sits on the shore of the Sumida River. Sadly, though millions of fish move through the market, none of them would survive in this water.

Japan is a beautiful country and I was astounded by the efficiency with which everything seemed to work.  This is true even for their fish market, which moves more fish than any other in the world.  It was surreal seeing so many bluefin tuna for sale since bluefin stocks have been so overfished.  We decided early on that we would never sell bluefin or any other overfished species and it's been an uphill battle, but one we still feel strongly is worth fighting.

Posted Nov 6th by Martin