My first visit to Tsukiji was ill advised. I was 19 years old and had been living in Tokyo for two months. They say to visit Tsukiji on your first day or two in Japan as the jet lag will help with the early start to catch the early morning action in the market. My girlfriend at the time had just arrived in Japan and had never left Canada before. First thing the next morning we made it through the maze of subways to Tsukiji.
The combined aroma of every kind of fish and diesel fumes plus the commotion proved to be too much — she became instantly nauseous. Unfortunately for us inexperienced tourists Tsukiji was and continues to be an actual working fish market with real working fisherman bathrooms. Kneeling on the dirty wet floor whatever contents of the meal from her United Airlines flight the day before were let loose into the filthy recessed bowl in the floor.
I on the other hand loved the market. The hustle and bustle of motorized carts ripping around. The sounds of the hawkers selling the daily catch. The bright red tuna under the lights. The organized chaos happening all around me was something north of incredible. I had never seen anything like it.
7 years later I would return to Tsukiji with my sister and wander the same market relatively unchanged by time. Since my first visit the authorities that be had toned down tourist access to the market as it had become so popular. Since then even more so with the dawn of self-indulgent instagramming.
With news that the Tsukiji market will be moving to a new site prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it seemed fitting to compile some of my images from this legendary fish market. If you have the chance to go here before it closes be sure to stop somewhere nearby for a sushi breakfast. There are few places in the world you will eat this well.
Chris Stenberg is a Canadian travel photographer, filmmaker and researcher. When he’s not wielding a camera or raising a family you can find him running, biking and boarding in the mountains or eating an apple under a tree in an orchard.