Wandering – Photographing the Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market

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A visit to the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is a must for every tourist. Said to be the world’s largest fish market, its constant motion, colors and culture are a delight to be taken in. That also makes it a prime attraction for some serious photography.

The Place

The Tsukiji market has a long history. It’s located at the waterfront, since in the early years fish were brought in by trawlers. That vanished and railroad tracks were installed and the fish arrived by wagon loads. Nowadays the tracks are paved over and trucks bring in fish that’s sometimes flown in from faraway places to sate Tokyo’s appetite for fresh sushi. Word is that the current market will disappear in the coming years and be replaced by a new one a few miles from the present location.

That’s bad news for photographers. Over the years, tourists have become less welcome at Tsukiji. Until a few years ago, visitors could enter the market at any time and wander the many stalls while the main business took place. Then rude behavior by some tourists led to a complete ban on visitors. This ban is now partially lifted, but we can assume that a new facility will be designed to separate visitors from the vendors, which means photographers would not be able to see the action up close.

The guide books will tell you about the various areas of the market, but the one that you really want to capture is the so-called ‘inner market.’ That’s where the auctions take place and where the fish is prepped for shipment throughout Tokyo. It’s a maze of stalls and narrow passageways.

If possible you could spend hours walking the narrow corridors, seeking the best photo opportunities. The halls are vast, the stalls many and the concentrated activity captivating. The ‘if possible’ at the beginning of this paragraph is key, though, as time is your enemy.

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