The Outer Market of Tsukiji in Tokyo is a favorite morning photography spot of mine. You might have once heard of Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market, where frenetic tuna auctions were held during the wee hours of the night for seventy-odd years.
The Inner Market where the auction used to be held was restricted to public. However, a thriving, public outer market with all sorts of little shops selling to restaurateurs and local consumers alike around the restricted inner market developed over the decades.
The City of Tokyo moved the tuna auction market to a new facility some kilometers away in Toyosu in October, 2018. The aging Tsukiji Fish Market facilities were getting too decrepit and cramped for the city to bear, and so the decision to develop a modern facility was made.
Many feared that the Tsukiji Outer Market would shrivel and die without the bustling Inner Market. Yet nothing of the sort happened. The Outer Market is still so fascinating, so charming, so steeped in history, and so authentically Tokyo, that people continue to patron the shops and restaurants.
Some restaurateurs in the Outer Market have confided in me that business is even better than when the Inner Market was still open!
And this is no surprise. Tsukiji has changed little since the 1950s, so much so that if you were to look at monochrome photos of Tsukiji’s outer market, unless there is someone in the photo walking around with say an iPhone or a Walkman (people my age will know what a Walkman is. If you don’t, google it!), it is almost impossible to place the period it was taken. Tsukiji is a walk-in time capsule.
So you want to have some of best sushi in Japan without paying exorbitant prices? Try Sushi Zanmai. Would you like to have some of the best coffee in Tokyo? Drop by Yazawa Coffee’s “Secret Stand” nestled in one of the covered alleyways behind a butcher shop, next to a Japanese omelette shop and across from a Japanese tea shop. Explore Tsukiji. There are interesting foods to buy and try everywhere you look.
But more importantly, at least for me, the Tsukiji Outer Market has maintained its wee morning hours of operation. Most shops are open or at least setting up by 6:00 AM. And there are people there to patron the shops—Japanese locals and tourists alike!
So for me, Tsukiji is the place I like to start my day when I have morning meetings in Tokyo. It is the only place in the city that is vibrant by 6:00 AM, and wonderful for street photography. In the winter months early mornings, it is still rather dark—and that’s OK. The lighted shops make for great monochrome photography.
The photos in the article I shot in the Tsukiji Outer Market in January, around 6:00 AM. I used a Leica M3, with a Summicron 35mm f/2 eight-element, and a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400. I shot at EI3200, and developed with Kodak T-Max Developer as per Kodak’s recommendations.