Taxis are a luxury in Japan. They are expensive and you can do without them because trains and buses are very efficient. But at 4 am on a Monday morning, we are inside one. Tsukiji Market allows only 120 people to the tuna auction each day and the registration starts at 5 am. This is the same time the subway opens but you need to be earlier than that. So unless you are staying near the market, your best bet is to take an expensive taxi ride.
We arrive a few minutes later, just good enough to be in the second (and last) batch of visitors. After a while, the security officers start turning away people. They either take another expensive taxi back to the hotel or wait a couple of hours for breakfast. As an Australian next to me in line said, “You snooze, you lose.”
An hour later we are allowed inside a waiting room. We are given blue vests and warned not to go beyond the tourist area, get in the way of anybody, or use flash photography. Thirty minutes later, we are led to the auction. Motorized carts dart all over the place (more on this later) so it’s like playing Frogger. Pimped out trucks are plenty (What’s up with that?).
The auction area is like a tuna morgue. Buyers are looking, poking, and making notes. The bell rings. The auctioneer stands on a wooden platform and calls out the fish numbers (I presume). In less than five minutes, it’s over. Another auctioneer rings his bell and in a matter of minutes, he’s done too.
As we exit the premises, I see more tunas about to be auctioned in another warehouse. Are there really plenty more fish in the sea?