The Relocation of Tsukiji Fish Market to Toyosu Market

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Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market, the sparkling gem of Japan's culinary world, has been a bustling hub of fresh fish and authentic Japanese food. This sensation of a market has gone through a fabulous makeover, relocating to the dazzling new Toyosu Market site, and honey, the world is talking about it! 

This story isn't just about moving crates and forklifts. It brings in aspects of Tokyo’s history, culture, and cuisine, showing what an important place the Tsukiji and now Toyosu Fish Market has in Tokyo. 

From early morning tuna auctions to street food that will make you sashay with delight, the transition from Tsukiji to Toyosu is a drama that’s well worth familiarizing yourself with if you’re planning to visit.

A Glance at Tsukiji's Glamorous Past

The Tsukiji Fish Market, an integral part of the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, threw open its doors in 1935, blossoming into Japan's seafood epicenter. Nestled in central Tokyo near the stylish Ginza, Tsukiji wasn't just a playground for wholesalers. It was a bustling destination that attracted curious locals and intrepid travelers.

Tourists from American, Chinese, and other Asian markets were often lured to Tsukiji, trying Japanese delicacies for the first time, guided by vendors shouting in Japanese and English. Forklifts buzzing around, lively tuna auctions, and the vibrant market area created an energetic blend of tradition and commerce that became a major tourist attraction.

The market was divided into two sections with slightly different raison d’etres.

Tuskiji’s Inner Market

The inner market of Tsukiji was the core of commercial activities and was primarily reserved for licensed wholesale dealers, including around 900 licensed wholesale dealers in seafood. It was where the frenetic early morning tuna auctions were held, a spectacle that attracted tourists who could obtain limited access to observe the high-paced bidding.

Beyond the tuna auction, the inner market was a bustling environment filled with wholesale vendors selling fresh fish, seafood, and other marine products. It was a place of serious business, where trucks and motorized carts moved quickly through narrow lanes.

Visitors could explore the inner market after the wholesale business hours, usually after 10 a.m. A few sushi restaurants were located in the inner market, where visitors could experience sushi made from the freshest ingredients obtained right on the spot.

Tsukiji’s Outer Market

The Tsukiji Outer Market, on the other hand, was a retail space open to the general public and had a more relaxed and tourist-friendly atmosphere. It was home to a variety of shops selling kitchen tools, fresh produce, prepared foods, dry goods, and seafood.

Visitors to the outer market could enjoy sushi and a broad array of Japanese street food, including ramen, tamago (sweet omelets), and fresh seafood bowls. Many small restaurants, shops, and stalls here cater to both locals and tourists, offering an immersive experience of Japanese food culture.

Unlike the inner market, the outer market did not host wholesale operations. It was more of a lively shopping and dining area where tourists could purchase seafood-related souvenirs, taste fresh seafood, and enjoy traditional Japanese dishes.

In essence, the Tsukiji Inner Market was the backbone of the seafood trade, more focused on wholesale activities and housing the famous tuna auctions, while the Outer Market was a consumer-oriented space filled with retail shops, eateries, and a broad spectrum of Japanese culinary offerings. 

The unique combination of these two distinct but complementary areas made Tsukiji a special place for food professionals and culinary enthusiasts.

The New Toyosu Market

October 2018 marked a new era as the new Toyosu Market took over Tsukiji's legacy and brought it to new heights. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and then-Governor Yuriko Koike meticulously chose the new location near Tokyo Bay. With the challenges of soil contamination and aging facilities at the Tsukiji site, Toyosu emerged as the solution, reflecting the metropolitan vision for Tokyo's future.

The new market is a marvel of modern architecture, featuring state-of-the-art refrigeration, a dedicated viewing gallery for the renowned tuna auction, and enhanced facilities for wholesalers. It is not merely a market but a symbol of how tradition can evolve with the times without losing its essence.

Toyosu proudly houses sushi restaurants, ramen spots, and street food vendors, continuing Tsukiji's traditions but in a gleaming, more modern setting. The market area is designed for easy navigation for first-time visitors, with clear English signs, making it accessible to both locals and international tourists.

The move to the new site was not merely about relocating vendors and fresh fish but shifting a piece of Tokyo's soul. The grand vision of transforming the market for the future while holding onto its traditions was a dance that Tokyo executed with grace and grandeur. 

The freshness of Tsukiji has been retained, yet in Toyosu, it's presented on a sleek, modern platter. It's Tokyo's way of embracing the future without letting go of the past.

Spilling the Tea on the Market Move

The transition from Tsukiji to Toyosu wasn't all fresh sushi and morning auctions. It also came served with a side of drama. 

Tsukiji had been Tokyo's culinary heart, supplying seafood ranging from extravagantly priced tuna belly sushi to delightful tempura squid tentacles. A commercial operation worth almost 2bn yen a day, darling, and the epicenter of an industry connecting an estimated 60,000 people. Now that's a big fish to fry!

The plan was to pack away the knives and say goodbye to the overcrowded, aging premises, moving to a glitzy new building in Toyosu. A new home, less than two miles south along Tokyo Bay, and all built at the staggering cost of 588bn yen. 

But hold your horses — or should we say seahorses —because the new site was found to be contaminated with some unsavory toxins like benzene, arsenic, and cyanide.

Concerns over safety started to ripple well beyond Tsukiji. Rumors spread across the world, tarnishing the brand that thrived on the absolute guarantee of safety and taste. 

Tokyo's governance put an abrupt halt to the move. Safety and reassurance were suddenly the talk of the town, and the market's biggest crisis since it opened in 1935 had to be handled with style and caution. 

A poll of the wholesalers showed overwhelming opposition to moving to Toyosu. They liked their spot in Tsukiji and weren't ready for a change of scenery.

So, here's the final dish: The planned move from Tsukiji to Toyosu was about Tokyo's evolution, a step towards a more cosmopolitan image. But with contamination concerns, resistance from those in the business, and an international reputation to uphold, this was more than a simple relocation. In the end, however, they made it happen. 

Comparing the Two Markets

Tsukiji and Toyosu, those two beauties of Tokyo, are different in looks but share the same heartbeat as the nucleus of Japan's seafood industry. Tsukiji’s rustic charm was like that vintage dress that never goes out of style. 

Toyosu, on the other hand, is the chic new arrival in town. Clean, organized, and fitted with modern amenities, it's like Tsukiji got a makeover! 

Home to the new market's tuna auction, sushi restaurants, and a market area that continues to lure wholesalers and tourists alike, Toyosu is a blend of tradition and innovation. It’s like a fresh coat of paint that retains the integrity of the structure.

But don't think they just threw everything old away. The love for fresh fish, the buzz of the market, the ramen aroma, the tuna auction tradition — everything that made Tsukiji a beloved icon has been lovingly carried over to Toyosu. It's a comparison between old-school grace and modern glamor, both magnificent in their ways.

How To Experience Toyosu

Strut into Toyosu's market area, and you'll find yourself amidst a fantastic fusion of the old and new. Early morning visits to witness the tuna auction are still the red carpet event, a must-do that continues the legacy of Tsukiji. Uogashi, the intermediate wholesale market area, is where you can find the freshest seafood, sushi, and ramen, reminiscent of Tsukiji but with a modern twist.

Strolling through Toyosu feels like meeting an old friend who's just had a fabulous makeover. You recognize the vibrancy and freshness, but it's all wrapped in a contemporary package. 

First-time visitors will find Toyosu welcoming, with clear English signs guiding the way. Whether you're revisiting your Tsukiji memories or stepping into Tokyo's seafood marvel for the first time, Toyosu makes you feel like a star. 

Its blend of tradition and innovation creates an experience like sipping vintage wine from a sleek, modern glass. It's the past and the future, elegantly twined, waiting to be explored and adored.

From Tsukiji With Love

The story of Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market and its relocation to the new Toyosu Market is not just about a change in real estate. It's a tale of Tokyo's evolution, retaining its position as the host of Asia's biggest fish market while adapting to modern demands.

From the initial market moves to the opening of the new site, the journey has been filled with challenges and triumphs. It's a story that encapsulates the spirit of Japan, a blend of tradition and innovation that’s more than worth a spot on your list of things to do and places to visit if you get the chance to visit this exciting locale.


History of the Tokyo Fish Market | The Toyosu Shijou

Tsukiji Outer Market 

Ginza | Japan-Guide

Toyosu Market | Tokyo Metropolitan Government

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