The Morning Fish Market at Funakata

A daybreak visit to the world’s largest seafood market, Tokyo’s Tsukiji, is almost de rigueur for visitors to Japan. People love the grittiness of the fish market, the bustle, urgency and esoterica of the auction, and especially that early morning breakfast of fresh sashimi.

But fresher even than that freshness are the auction and the fish at Tateyama’s Funakata market. This is where Tateyama’s take goes first. What remains of the catch is then sent off to Tsukiji to be sold there the next day as “fresh.”

As for the auction, what a contrast between Tsukiji, which has become so popular among tourists that their entry is now restricted, and Funakata. Funakata is – well – slow. Puddles, buckets, lots of empty space; the logos of the bidders posted up next to the chalkboard; the ten, eleven guys round a table, the early morning beer, the wait till all the boats get in.

Relaxed though they seem, they say they’re unwilling to compromise on quality. Tateyama locals sometimes sound a little envious of Tsukiji’s attractions, but they’ll all admit they’d never trade in their “fresh” for Tsukiji’s. Tomorrow is no match for today when it comes to fresh fish.