Goodbye Tukiji Fish Market|Travelling Sushi Chef Yoshi Talks of “The Heart of Sushi”

Sushi chef Yoshi of Matsunozushi. His work place is all around the globe. “Sushi is not just a slice of fish on rice” Yoshi talks about his art.

According to Japan National Tourist Organization, the number of foreigners visiting Japan in 2017 has reached a record high with 28.69million visitors. As a former tour guide, I feel overwhelmed that so many foreigners have visited Japan, and I expect this number will keep growing.

Tukiji Fish Market, where most of the fish I make sushi with come from, ranks high in the places such foreign visitors want to visit when in Tokyo. This popularity is due to Tukiji being the worlds’ biggest fish market with a unique atmosphere, and it being the symbol of Japan’s fish culture. The Inner Market of Tukiji, where the professional chefs and buyers shop, closed its doors on October 6. For myself, having many memories of accompanying my father here since childhood, it feels sad and bittersweet. So today I would like to talk about Tukiji.

The biggest difference between Tukiji and other fish markets in foreign countries is that within Tukiji Market, there are many little stores specializing in different fish. Tuna is sold at a store specializing in only tuna, shrimp is sold at a store specializing in only shrimp. Each store has a deep knowledge of their produce and are highly professional. For us buyers, we are able to buy each fish at its best. This is probably the biggest secret of why the quality of seafood in Japan is so high.

How we trade in Tukiji is unique too. Probably the most surprising is how we negotiate the price. In my case the price is suggested to me through coded conversation. At Matsunozushi, where I am chef, we buy mostly fresh fish. Compared to farm raised fish, prices vary with weather, conditions at sea, and the seasons. But since the broker and I are both professionals, we can both figure out the price by looking at the fish. The broker might say to me “There’s not a lot of this fish today” which would mean the price is higher than what I have in mind. Or he might say “you should take this today” which is telling me it’s a bargain, or maybe I should buy it today because the price might jump up tomorrow.

Depending on the quantity and quality of fish we trade, the price varies by each customer, so it’s an unwritten rule in Tukiji to never eavesdrop on other peoples’ transactions. This kind of communication strongly reflects Japanese culture and we call it “to read the atmosphere.”

In the Inner Market, there were restaurants and cafes where the traders who have finished shopping for fish gather. My favorite, the coffee shop “Aiyo”. It was a cozy little shop with a long counter and just two table seats, but when I sit and warm myself with a hot cup of coffee, someone I know came along and we swapped information. Sadly this store closed with the transfer of the market from Tukiji to Toyosu. This transfer is imminent.Toyosu Fish Market will open October 11. There are still a lot of aspects of the new market that are not decided or not disclosed to us. For the next segment I’m planning on talking about the new Toyosu Market.



3-31-14 Minamiooi Shinagawa Tokyo
11:30~13:30 (L.O.) 16:30~22:00(L.O.)
Sundays and Public Holidays

Text・Yoshinori Tezuka

更新: 2018年9月25日