image064.jpgYou might not understand why visiting Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is considered such a must among visitors to Japan until you step into it yourself. The largest fish market in the world, the Tsukiji displays vibrancy difficult to describe with just one word. At Tsukiji Market, the Japanese fishing industry and its unique wholesale techniques are alive and well.

A day at Tsukiji begins at 5 pm. Fresh foods and products pour in from all over Japan and from abroad by numerous trucks until late at night. At 3 am of the following day, before daybreak, wholesalers lay out their goods in preparation for the auctions. One hour prior to the auctions the buyers start to examine the quality and estimate the prices for the day. At 5:30 am, the world-famous frozen tuna auctions start. Wholesalers ring the hand bell, which boosts tensions among the buyers, as well as the visitors. Wholesalers call out the numbers and buyers respond with finger signs instantaneously. There you can see speechless and speedy transactions, accompanied by the music of auctioneers’ voices. Both wholesalers and buyers are well-trained and skillful in evaluating the quality of tunas so that they won’t take a risk of losing a lot of money.

image066.jpgIn the Inner Market, there are more than 700 intermediate wholesalers, dealing with 480 kinds of product. Here again, traditional face-to-face dealings are in play. Market dealers work competitively but harmoniously against the clock. It may look chaotic, but the truth is quite the contrary. A high standard of cleanliness is maintained and the disposal of seafood waste, water, polystyrene foam is strictly controlled by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Unique vehicles similar to a forklift move around back and forth at fairly high speeds without accident, often impressing onlookers.

Participating in a sushi making cultural experience program can be another exciting experience. You can learn how to make 3 different kinds of sushi, Hosomaki, Gunkan, and Nigiri, under careful instruction by a cooking teacher. You may be impressed to realize how easily you can make the sophisticated sushi dishes, using a unique and handy sushi-making kit. You can also learn the Japanese way of doing tableware, display and hospitality. You will bring home smiles and a warm heart from your cooking teacher, along with a sushi-making kit as a souvenir.

image068.jpgIJCEE offers a combination tour of Fish Market Watching and Sushi Making (8:30-13:30; 1 Adult, 20000 Yen; 2 Adults, 17800 Yen; Due to the rules below, watching Tuna Auction is not included.). IJCEE also offers many other cultural experience programs held mainly in English. In some case French, Spanish and Chinese are also available. Please visit http://www.ijcee.com/e.html.

[How to watch the famous Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Market]

All people who would like to watch the early morning Tuna Auction from the special observation area are requested to obtain a reservation from the “Fish Information Center” (see map included in the pdf link below). People who do not have a reservation are not permitted to enter the Tuna auction observation area.

Reservations start at 4:30 am and operate on a first come first serve basis up until the maximum number of 140 visitors has been reached, after which reservations will finish for that day.

On the first come first serve basis, the first 70 people to make a reservation will be able to visit from 5 am to 5:40 am. The next 70 people will be allowed to visit from 5:40 am to 6:15 am.

There are certain rules to watch the market. Please refer to

http://www.shijou.metro.tokyo.jp/press/22/images/guidance1.pdf.

*Please note that the Tsukiji Fish Market temporary closes the public observation area for tuna auction from December 1 2010 through January 23 2011. During the busiest time of the year, the observation area of tuna auction is off limits to visitors as a precaution for visitors’ safety and smoother auction.

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