SCALING UP

Inside the first tuna auction at Toyosu market, Tokyo’s Tsukiji successor

Plenty of fish.
Plenty of fish.
Image: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
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Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market, the largest seafood market in the world, closed last week after eight decades of operation. Hosting tens of thousands of merchants, buyers and tourists, the chaotic Tsukiji was an icon of fast-moving, food-obsessed Tokyo.

While the stalls and restaurants in the “outer market” will remain accessible, most of the major business has moved to Toyosu market, a brand new 407,000 square foot facility a few kilometers away.

Some die-hards aren’t thrilled with the new digs, for both nostalgic and practical reasons. Sellers worry the new location will result in a drop-off of business. Some are concerned about potential pollution at the new site, which used to host a gas plant. Environmental safety tests over the last year showed highly elevated levels of benzine in the groundwater. As recently as last month, some sellers were still filing lawsuits to delay the move.

For others, the move to the gleaming, modern Toyosu is a blow to Japan’s culinary soul. ”On a purely professional level, maybe Toyosu is better, but on a sentimental level, it’s Tsukiji … the head says yes, but the heart says no,” Lionel Beccat, a Tokyo-based chef, told AFP.

Tokyo fishmonger Toshitaka Moria put it more succinctly to the New York Times (paywall): “Dirty is best.”

The most iconic sight at the late Tsukiji, the early morning tuna auction, resumed at Toyosu yesterday, as crowds of discerning fish buyers sized up the day’s offering. The ritual is traditionally a major draw for lines of bleary-eyed tourists, but few were in sight at Toyosu. The new market is still letting tourists view the tuna auction, but from the separate observation deck.

Photos of the first auction show fish buyers picking up right where they left off.

Sizing up the catch

Toyosu Market
A prospective buyer looks at frozen tunas.
Image: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
A prospective buyer inspects tunas before bidding.
A prospective buyer inspects tunas before bidding.
Image: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Toyosu Market
A wholesaler checks the quality of frozen tuna.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

Getting down to business

An auctioneer gestures during one of the the first tuna auctions on the opening day of the new Toyosu fish market.
An auctioneer gestures during one of the the first tuna auctions on the opening day of the new Toyosu fish market.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato
Tourists won’t be able to get a ground level view of the proceedings, instead they can watch from an observation deck above the market.
Tourists won’t be able to get a ground level view of the proceedings, instead they can watch from an observation deck above the market.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato
The first tuna auction underway at Toyosu.
The first tuna auction underway at Toyosu.
Toyosu fish market
Wholesalers carry tuna after the first tuna auctions on the opening day of the new Toyosu fish market.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

The rest of Toyosu springs to life

Toyosu coming to life on its opening day.
Toyosu coming to life on its opening day.
Image: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Wholesalers take part in an auction at the greengrocery area on the opening day of the new Toyosu market.
Wholesalers take part in an auction at the greengrocery area on the opening day of the new Toyosu market.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato
A man makes a bid at a fruit and vegetable auction.
A man makes a bid at a fruit and vegetable auction.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato
A fishmonger cuts tuna meat at a wholesalers’ area.
A fishmonger cuts tuna meat at a wholesalers’ area.
Auctioneers take part in a wasabi auction.
Auctioneers take part in a wasabi auction.
The new Toyosu market replaces the 83-year-old Tsukiji Market
The new Toyosu market replaces the 83-year-old Tsukiji Market
Image: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko