Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo by Alfie Goodrich

Photographing Tsukiji Fish Market


Tsukiji is somewhere I’ve been visiting for about sixteen years, ever since first coming to Japan. Later this year it will move to a new site in Toyosu. Whilst there are many advantages of the market moving, the charm of the streets in the neighbourhood that surround the market itself will be lost forever when the traders take to their new home.

Part of the reason for the move is to provide a new, up to date home for the stallholders. On top of that, a new section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway will cut through the area. The absence of the market will also clear a huge area of land for new development. Construction is a massive business in Japan. Even at the time of the Bubble bursting in Japan’s economy, back in the 1990s, the country still spent more on concrete than America.

New development opportunities, the Olympics, progress… all publicly, officially cited reasons for the market moving. But one can’t deny that it’s a shame. And whilst Toyosu provides a shiny new home for Tsukiji and a chance for the neighbourhood there to flourish, the old streets of Tsukiji will change and die.

If you come to Tokyo this year then visit the market. Observe the rules, please, and remember that it’s a busy workplace for many.. not a theme-park for tourists. Be polite, considerate, enjoy the place in its last burst of life.

Here’s a small magazine I made some years ago, from some of my early shots at Tsukiji.

The gallery below contains a selection of shots I’ve made at the market over the years. Some go way back to the first trip, shot on film and here in the gallery as tiny scans.

A lot of the recent ones have just come straight out of the camera. I’ll probably get around to editing a lot more of the Tsukiji shots this year, as I’m trying to put together a few articles commissioned by various magazines.

A large chunk of the shots in the gallery were shot for The Wall Street Journal some years back, when I followed a leading sushi master around on his morning shopping trip and then back to his restaurant to shoot his team preparing lunch.

If you fancy experiencing Tsukiji with me, then drop me a line and we can make a tour there together.