The Tsukiji Market was a very popular tourist spot. It was built in 1935 and was the site of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market until it moved to Toyosu in October 2018. One of the highlights was going early in the market to watch the sale of fish, such as tuna, to wholesalers who in turn sold to intermediate wholesalers who then sold to restaurants, shops, and the general public. Equally as popular were the many shops outside the market which sold fresh seafood as well as prepared dishes. I remember it always being crowded at the end of the year with people buying things for their special New Year’s dishes.
When I was a student I sometimes stayed out partying until very early in the morning with my Japanese friends and often we would go to Tsukiji to eat a delicious meal before calling it a night in one of the shops in the Outer Market catering to truck drivers who had delivered fish from other parts of the country. The food was memorably delicious and inexpensive.
Tsukiji has an interesting history. The Tokugawa government established it on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay after the Great Fire of Meireki of 1657. It was called Tsukiji because the characters of that name mean “constructed land.” Before then the fish market in Edo was located in Nihonbashi. Tokugawa Ieyasu brought fish merchants from Osaka in 1590 to provide Edo Castle with fish. Any fish not sold to the castle was then sold in Nihonbashi to the public at a place called uogashi which means “fish quay.”
In 1918 the Rice Riots [米騒動] broke out throughout the country to protest food shortages, so in March 1923 the Central Wholesale Market Law was established. On September 1 of that year the Great Kanto Earthquake occurred and the fish market in Nihonbashi was destroyed. That prompted the market to be moved to Tsukiji.
Even though the market moved its operations to Toyosu, the Outer Market in Tsukiji still remains in operation and the general public as well as tourists still visit its many shops. Have you ever been there and do you have any fond memories of the Outer Market as I do? I think this is a good place to recommend to people visiting Tokyo for the first time. I know foreign tourists would love it!