Singaporeans are weird. Ask them to visit the Toa Payoh wet market in Singapore at 7 am and they’ll complain, but ask them to visit the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo at 3 am and they’ll be clamouring to be the first in line. But there’s more to that legendary location than just tuna auctions and fresh sushi.

This illustrious fish market is much older than Singapore itself, being over 500 years old. And in that time, it’s accumulated a lot of secrets and fulfilled many functions. Here are several fun facts you never knew about Tsukiji fish market. Surprise your friends the next time you go to Tokyo with your in-depth knowledge of Tsukiji!

1. You can buy whale sushi at Tsukiji

Whale sushi. Credit: Willy Jets

Whale sushi. Credit: Willy Jets

As controversial as it may be, you can buy whale sushi at Tsukiji fish market. But whales aren’t fish – they’re actually mammals, so they don’t taste like fish at all. They taste more like beef without the bloody taste of iron, and it’s definitely an acquired taste if you want to eat whale sushi.

You won’t be buying a whole slab of whale meat anyway, so look carefully and you’ll find convenient bite-sized whale sushi you can eat on the spot.

2. $8 billion dollars of seafood is bought and sold every year.

Tsukiji fish market. Credit: Pinterest

Tsukiji fish market. Credit: Pinterest

In 2013, over 600 billion yen (5.9 billion USD) changed hands at Tsukiji fish market. If you convert that to SGD, that’s 8.08 billion Singapore dollars! That means 22 million dollars worth of transactions happens at Tsukiji every day, on average. For reference, Singapore’s GDP was S$390 billion in 2014, meaning that 49 Tsukiji fish markets would be enough to overtake Singapore’s economy.

There’s definitely something fishy going on there.

3. Tsukiji originally sold leftovers from Edo castle

Nihonbashi fish market. Credit: Ukiyo

Nihonbashi fish market. Credit: Ukiyo

Here’s a short history lesson – during the Edo period, a shogun named Tokugawa Ieyasu invited fishermen from Osaka to provide fish for the Edo castle, Edo being the old name for Tokyo. But there was so much leftover fish that they decided to sell it at Nihonbashi fish market in 1590. Later, an earthquake in 1923 demolished Nihonbashi fish market, and it was relocated 3 km south to Tsukiji, where it became the Tsukiji fish market.

That’s right, Tsukiji fish market came about because the Japanese royalty didn’t eat enough fish. Lucky for us then!

4. Tsukiji fish market is slated to relocate on November 7…

Toyusu fishmarket. Credit: The Mainichi

Toyusu fishmarket. Credit: The Mainichi

Once again, Tsukiji will be moving to another location – Toyosu, which is some 2 km away. Luckily, it’s not because an earthquake demolished its premises, but for economic reasons instead, as Tsukiji fish market is sitting on prime real estate. The new building at Toyosu has already been built, and it will spread the market out across three buildings.

It’s just the inner wholesale market that’s moving though – the restaurants and other shops along the outer market will still be staying at Tsukiji.

5. … but that move has been delayed

Tsukiji in the morning. Credit: japan-guide.com

Tsukiji in the morning. Credit: japan-guide.com

Yep, the much discussed move has been delayed indefinitely, thanks to reports of pollution at the new Toyosu premises! Tests have revealed heavy soil contamination at the new Toyosu fish market, and since there’s a lot of raw fish that’ll be handled, the worry is that the fish will be contaminated too. So they’ll be cleaning up Toyosu fish market before the move can even commence.

Which means we’ll be able to visit Tsukiji fish market for quite a while more! In fact, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike might even call off the move altogether according to her latest statement to the press!

 

Tsukiji Wonderland. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Tsukiji Wonderland. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

If you don’t have the time (or money) to fly to Tokyo to visit Tsukiji one last time, there’s a cheaper option! Tsukiji Wonderland, a documentary about Tsukiji fish market, will show you what goes on inside the fabled market itself! It’s the closest you’ll get to Tsukiji fish market without actually being there, and you can experience the sights and sounds of the market without any of the fishy smell!

Of course, if you really want an olfactory experience, you could always bring a raw fish with you to watch Tsukiji Wonderland… but we don’t recommend that.


Credits: Willy Jets, Pinterest, Ukiyo, The Mainichi, japan-guide.com, Voyagin, Golden Village Cinemas