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Photos: Take one last stroll through Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market before it closes

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (9307879b)
Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock
End of an era.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

After 83 years, Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji fish market is closing its doors.

The overwhelming majority of the fishmongers who work at the market don’t want to leave, but the city is pushing them out to make way for new infrastructure in preparation of the upcoming 2020 Olympics. Where the fish market stands today will become a parking lot for the games—and eventually an amusement park, casino, or shopping center once the city makes up its mind.

Tsukiji serves as a wholesale market and tourist destination, with about 40,000 workers and visitors passing through on its busiest days and clearing 1.6 billion yen ($14.5 million) of seafood on an average day. It formally closes its doors tomorrow (Oct. 6), as businesses move to a new 569 billion yen ($5 billion) facility on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay.

The new Toyosu market will open for business on Oct. 11, barring any delays—in a desperate final effort, 59 intermediate wholesalers sued the city last month seeking an injunction.

Photo by Yuri Kageyama/AP/REX/Shutterstock
An aerial view of Tsukiji market.
Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Shoppers outside Tsukiji fish market.

The fishmongers oppose the new site for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s out of the way, and many worry they’ll lose their customers after the relocation. There are also fears of contamination at Toyosu, which is built atop land that previously belonged to Tokyo Gas. An inspection in 2017 found contaminants in the groundwater, including arsenic and the toxic chemical benzene. The government said it’s since cleaned up to meet safety standards.

“I am anxious about going to Toyosu. So many things are still undecided,” Oyama Akihiro, a fish vendor, told the New York Times (paywall). “The Tokyo government is less interested in the details of how to move the market and more concerned with the Olympic Games.”

There are also concerns about traffic, with only one road from Ginza district to the new market, as well as logistics because there are only two gates at the new market, compared with Tsukiji’s 12, to move inventory in and out.

The market may be more out of the way, but there is one thing visitors can at least be glad about: They’re far more likely to be able to witness the famed tuna auction that starts at 4:30am. Whereas Tsukiji only admitted 140 people, the Toyosu market will have a standing-room area above the auction floor. But unlike Tsukiji, visitors will not be able to enter the wholesale or intermediate wholesale spaces.

Many people say a visit to Tsukiji is like no other. Take one final stroll to experience the magic of this historic and cultural landmark.

Tsukiji through the years

Tokyo Metropolitan Government/Handout
Wholesalers gather during an auction at Tsukiji market on March 22, 1954.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government/Handout
A tuna fish auction at Tsukiji market on June 25, 1953.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government/Handout
Wholesalers at Tsukiji on April 1, 1968.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government/Handout
Tuna fish are landed from boats for Tsukiji’s tuna auction on Dec. 8, 1988.

The famed tuna auction

Franck Robichon/Epa/REX/Shutterstock
An auctioneer, left, gestures while selling frozen tuna during the first auction of the year at Tsukiji in 2016.
Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Wholesalers perform a ritual hand-clapping for the first auction of fresh tuna fish for the year.
A bluefin tuna is carried to the final year-opening auction at Tsukiji on Jan. 5, 2018.
Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock
Prospective buyers inspect the quality of fresh tuna at Tsukiji.
REUTERS/Issei Kato
A wholesaler cuts fresh tuna at Tsukiji fish market.
REUTERS/Issei Kato
Heads of fresh tuna fish lie on a table at Tsukiji market.
Photo by Christopher Jue/Epa/REX/Shutterstock
A buyer inspects the quality of a tuna fish at Tsukiji market.
Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Kiyoshi Kimura poses with the bluefin tuna he made a winning bid at the 2018 new year auction at his Sushi Zanmai restaurant near Tsukiji fish market.
Photo by Shizuo Kambayashi/AP/REX/Shutterstock
An employee of Kiyomura Co. shows a fillet of a bluefin tuna the company bought.
Photo by Shuji Kajiyama/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Fish dealers get a ride on a trolley after the day’s auction at Tsukiji market.

Beyond tuna

Local fish and shellfish on sale at Tsukiji.
Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Fish store vendors sell fresh seafood to shoppers who look for ingredients for “osechi,” or Japanese traditional new year dishes, near Tsukiji fish market.
REUTERS/Issei Kato
Boiled octopus for sale at Tsukiji.
Photo by Food and Drink/REX/Shutterstock
Fresh scallops at the market.
REUTERS/Issei Kato
A wholesaler displays fish at Tsukiji.

Faces of Tsukiji

REUTERS/Issei Kato
Tai Yamaguchi, 75, who has been tending her family’s fish shop for more than 50 years, works inside an accounting booth at her shop at Tsukiji fish market.
REUTERS/Issei Kato
Yamaguchi takes part in a rally denouncing the market’s relocation plan outside Tsukiji.
A man prepares to cut fresh tuna with a long sword.

The fish market’s new home

Without any businesses or fish yet, Toyosu can currently be described as sterile. Here is a peek of the new facility ahead of the move.

The exterior of the new Toyosu market.
The tuna wholesale area of the new Toyosu market.
The new Toyosu market ahead of the move from Tsukiji.

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