Japan’s Massive Tsukiji Fish Market to Close Next Year, Relocate in 2014

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As seen in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

New York might be swimming in fake fish, but an iconic tourist destination for sushi lovers the world over, Tsukiji Fish Market, is growing. The 78-year-old bustling, chaotic, wholesale marketplace is the largest of its kind in the world, and Tokyo officials say it has outgrown its current digs (and the governor wants its centrally located real estate for other purposes). Recently they unveiled designs for a new fish market a mile and a half away in the Koto Ward that's 40 percent larger than Tsukiji at 408,000 square meters (more than 4 million square feet).

If they weren't already familiar with the name, many Americans likely saw the market for the first time in this year's popular food-centric documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Chefs from around the world have made pilgrimages there, and today finds Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino tweeting that he's glad he got to see it before it will have to close in 2013.

Tsukiji Fish Market employs some 65,000 people, opening at 3 a.m. and handling more than 400 varieties of fish, seaweed, and caviar, with every vendor an expert in his or her species of fish. The market has been operating since 1924 when it replaced the former Nihonbashi fish market, destroyed in the 1923 earthquake.

It occupies some prime waterfront real estate next door to the high-rent Ginza district in central Tokyo, and right-wing Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara has been intent on moving the market for several years now something that has brought cries of protest and calls for preservation from many in Japan. One main objection to the new location is that it sits on land contaminated by a gas refinery, and the contamination still has to be cleaned up before construction can begin. Even still, the newer, bigger market should open in 2014.

New Tokyo fish market to be 40% larger than Tsukiji [Asahi Shimbun via CNN]
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