I did not make it to the tuna auction, but if you are willing to wake up early enough then go to the Tsukiji Fish Market at around 4am.
Foreigners who wish to view the auction have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 5am on a first-come, first-serve basis. A first group of 60 visitors will be admitted to the auction between 5.25 and 5.50am, while a second group of 60 visitors will be admitted between 5.50 and 6.15am. In total, 120 lucky tourists are allowed in. The auctions take place every day the fish market is open (except Sunday, every second Wednesday and some holidays).
However, even if you’ve missed the tuna auction, you can still see some of the huge bluefin tuna carcasses at the inner wholesale area of the fish market.
The Bluefin tuna are flash frozen to about minus-60 degrees Celsius. Labels on the side of the fish carry seller information, weight of fish and where it was caught. They all have their tails removed so that the buyers can shine a flashlight at the meat to inspect the fat content and quality of the meat.
Once bought, the tuna are cut. Some traders decided to wait until the tuna had thawed, before opening the tuna with a machete or large knife. This is really hard work and this trader was sweating a lot – but he still put on a show to demonstrate his skills.
Here are some already cut pieces of tuna, which have thawed already. They look like slices of amazing steak – but they are all tuna steaks (not meat). The colour is amazing, the texture looks smooth and I’m sure, if I had been allowed to touch them, the steaks would have felt like silk!
Some traders then cut the tuna meat into smaller pieces – depending on what their customers ordered. It was fascinating to watch the traders cut the meat, they all took their job very seriously and administered a lot of care. They lovingly touched each piece of meat, deciding carefully at what angle to cut it, before they made their first move with the knife.
Here are a few slices of cut meat – one of the traders had cut it off to show the different qualities to its customers. Amazing breadth of colour and the texture is just so soft.
Once the tune was prepared, the pieces were wrapped in papers to keep them fresh.
Other traders displayed big chunks of frozen tuna meat…
… some of the frozen pieces were cut into smaller loins using bandsaws…
… then weighed and packed.