Tsukiji fish market tuna carcasses and the men who cut them up

Originally set to be moved to a shiny modern complex next year, the wonderfully chaotic and happily old-school Tsukiji fish market has been granted a stay of execution due to soil contamination at the new location. Findings that unsurprisingly have heaped considerably more criticism on an already contentious decision.

However, while Tsukiji in its current form may live on for another year, it’s a very different story for the dazzling array of sea dwellers that arrive at the market. None of which are more representative of Tsukiji than the tuna; a fact proven by the recent hoopla surrounding this month’s record breaking first auction of the year which saw a bluefin sell for a staggering 155 million yen.

Huge, initially quite startling beasts, that are carefully cut up with equally impressive knives.

Tsukiji fish market tuna

A fascinating procedure that is as time consuming as it is time-honoured.

Tsukiji fish market tuna

Tsukiji fish market tuna

With the end result being fabulously glistening raw meat, and the considerably less appealing looking carcasses.

Tsukiji fish market tuna

Tsukiji fish market tuna


  1. Don says

    I had no idea there was talk of moving the market! Now I really wish we’d made the effort to go while I was there last April. Beautiful shots from what could have easily been a more gruesome event. Thanks as always!

    • says

      Thanks a lot!

      Yes, it has been in the works for a while now. I understand the need for a move, as it really is showing its age. But at the same time, it’s arguably the grottiness and rundown nature of the place that makes it what it is. The new one will be Tsukiji in name only.

  2. says

    And there went the last tuna :-)

    (I do like the little maze of tiny shops around the market, and not to forget the fabulous sushi in some of these restaurants)

    • says


      Same here. In fact those little alleyways were what I originally went to photograph. Luckily though there was still a good bit of activity in the market for me to get these shots.

  3. says

    A word for those who may mistakenly believe parts like the head are cast aside; they aren’t. I’ve only seen it on TV, but the head is stewed and the meat then gently removed with chopsticks and eaten hot.

  4. winnie says

    Great shots!!
    I like the third picture most!

    I have not been to Tsukiji market before. I do not know if I dare to watch them cutting the fish. My heart almost skipped a beat when I saw the last picture. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Winnie.

      Yeah, he was quite a character. He also told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want any more photos taken!

      It’s definitely worth a visit. Absolutely fascinating place. It’s not really gruesome either. I’m very squeamish, but it didn’t bother me at all.

    • says

      Cheers for the link.

      Not always that appealing looking, but yeah, there’s very little that goes to waste.

  5. MrSatyre says

    I’ve always wanted to know more about the “swords” they use to cut up the really big fish, as pictured here. While they’re not family samurai swords, they resemble them in length and curve. If memory serves, such heirlooms must be locked up, but I would hazard a guess that in the many generations of fish mongers that there are similarly prized cutting implements. Lee, do you know anything about them?

    • says

      Yeah, I expect they are prized possessions handed down from genera ration to generation. Both for their meaning and value – I can only imagine how much they cost.

      Unfortunately I don’t know much about them, but I do recall my father-in-law telling me that people need a license to own one, just like they do with a traditional sword. Makes sense too considering their size.

  6. LAObserver says

    Great posting Lee. Are the people in Nippon concerned about mercury content in the tuna meat ? I only ask because here in the States tuna is frequently mentioned in health related articles.

    • says

      Thank you!

      Not that I’m aware off. Of course it’s well known that you shouldn’t be eating it everyday, but most people can’t afford to anyway, so it’s not really an issue.

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