Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market (Podcast 331)

Last week, I visited the Tsukiji Fish Market here in Tokyo with Scott Jarvie, and had a wonderful morning shooting around the market, and so today I'm going to share some of my experiences and photos with you, with some advice for shooting there yourself interwoven, including a bit of...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Elaine Nawiesniak
    Posted at 19:43h, 16 April Reply

    I lived in Japan from 92-94. We visited the Tsukiji Fish Market during a trip to Tokyo and were able to see the auction. It was fascinating and I hope you do get back to see it on another visit. My husband is in the Air Force and we were both fortunate enough to teach English to two groups of Japanese physicians and dentists who were extremely generous and hospitable to us. We saw things and were invited into places that most gaijin would never be able to experience without that connection. The Japanese are warm and hospitable people and we loved every minute of our four years there! I really enjoyed this podcast and hope to see more excursions like this from you in the future.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 20:18h, 16 April Reply

      Thanks for the comment Elaine! I’m pleased you enjoyed this episode.

      For sure, actually living here helps to see things that most foreigners never get to see.

      I’ve wanted to visit Tsukiji for years, but never got around to it. I’m pleased I went, and I will certainly try to get to the auction before they move the market to Toyosu.


  • Balbo
    Posted at 22:51h, 16 April Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Great gallery, love the way all the pictures share the same “a little like HDR images” (as you said) look and feel. Did you stack several filters from Nik Color Efex Pro to get to that point please?


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:42h, 16 April Reply

      Hi Balbo,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The effect was just Detail Extractor in varying degrees, depending on the image. No stacking.

      Note too that the second image “Driver” was pretty much straight out of the camera. I love the light on that one.


      • Balbo
        Posted at 06:59h, 17 April Reply

        Thanks for the follow-up Martin

  • Mike Byford
    Posted at 02:16h, 17 April Reply

    Great podcast Martin – reminds me of a day with Turkish photographer who I booked as a guide in southern turkey got some great access to rural family life etc well worth cost – hopefully can do the same in Tokyo with you one day

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:24h, 17 April Reply

      Thanks Mike!

      That sounds great too.

      Just let me know if you need help like that here in Japan any time.


  • Jeffrey Friedl
    Posted at 18:47h, 20 April Reply

    I’m surprised about the “asking” bit. They’re in a place that specifically opens for tourists pretty much every day of the year, so no one working there is going to be surprised about a camera, but everyone working there is *working*, so I would have thought the offense here would be to interrupt their work, especially to ask a trivial question that everyone already knows the answer to. Asking the question you already know the answer too falls under “social graces”, and like I said, I thought that would take a backseat to getting work done, so it’s a good datapoint to have learned, should I ever visit the market.

    But as a counter-example to the fish market, I’ll point out that if you’re in Kyoto and see a geiko (geisha) and want to take a photo, just go ahead and do it, but if you want them to pose, consider that to ask you’ll be interrupting their work, or their heading to work, and that is indeed an imposition with their busy schedules. (And if they’re with a client, it’s downright rude and they will likely refuse you.) But like any similar scenario, be respectful and quick.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 22:42h, 20 April Reply

      Hi Jeffrey! Thanks for stopping by.

      Asking is not only suggested by the security guards, I personally think it’s good photography etiquette. Of course, if you want to shoot candid shots in the street, just go ahead and shoot it, and then if necessary ask afterwards, but I think you should ask at places Tsukiji.

      Sure, the Tsukiji bunch are used to being photographed, but it can’t feel great to just has someone come up and start shooting without a word. The good thing is that no-one says no, or at least not to me, and once they’ve acknowledged you, they go straight back to work, so they’re great models!

      Great advice about the geiko Jeffrey!


  • Pat B.
    Posted at 22:45h, 24 April Reply

    The colors and textures you captured in the Tusukiji photos were quite amazing. It looks like you had a good time and I’m quite jealous of your extremely fresh sashimi encounter.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:59h, 26 April Reply

      Thanks Pat!

      That fresh tuna sashimi was something else too. 🙂

  • Al Woodcock
    Posted at 11:43h, 26 April Reply

    Although we lived in Japan for three years 1969-1972 we never got to the fish market. I wonder if the move to the new facility will change the atmosphere of the place that you caught so well in your photographs. Hope not. I am now inspired to go to our local West Side Market and do some shooting. It is retail, but attracts a wide spectrum of customers and all the vendors are small businesses.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 12:01h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Al,

      I’m sure the atmosphere will be different from now, with a nice new building etc. but the people won’t change, I’m sure. Before you know it, everything will be business as usual.

      If you get over to your local market, do have a good time, and share a link to the photos!


  • Alvin
    Posted at 16:02h, 15 June Reply

    I’m quite sad to hear that they don’t allow visitors into the market now before 9AM. If I recall correctly there was some ruckus made by a few foreigners who were misbehaving inside.

    It’s a pity, because I’ve also photographed inside the market and found the bulk of the action happening in the early hours until about 7 to 8AM when things start to slow down.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 21:12h, 15 June Reply

    Hi Alvin,

    You can join one of the two sessions for the auction much earlier, but you have to get their by around 4am to secure your place. Once that’s over, it’s after 9am.

    The problem was much more than a few foreigners. It was years of foreigners getting in the way and touching the fish etc. They were quite patient for a while, but then when they’d had enough, they banned visitors all together for quite a while. The new rules are a result of a lot of thinking how they could let people in, but maintain the safety of the visitors and keep people from touching the fish.

    It’s a shame, but we can’t really blame the market staff. People needed to behave more initially.


  • John
    Posted at 12:21h, 13 September Reply

    Hi Martin.

    I just listened to this episode, as I only recently discovered you. I love the images and your narrative. I also liked the catchy music bed? Can you share the name of the tune or the musical group?

  • Pamela Wagner
    Posted at 01:15h, 11 July Reply

    Doing some research for a trip to Japan in 2019. Came across your post, and I have to say this has been the most informative in regard to the Tsukiji Market. I’m an amateur photographer and my passion is street photography/lifestyle photography. I would definitely love your assistance photographing the fish market when the time comes….if you’re still offering.
    Pamela W

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 08:53h, 11 July Reply

    Hi Pamela,

    I’m pleased you found this post useful.

    If the timing works, I may be able to help with your visit, but it’s possible that Tsukiji won’t be there in 2019, at least not in it’s current form. A new market has been built at Toyosu, and the market should have already moved, but they are having problems that are causing them to rethink. The current plan actually has them leaving Tsukiji in place for small business sales, and making Toyosu the new wholesale fish market. Depending on what actually happens, there may or may not be anything to see in 2019.

    Let’s keep our eye on the situation, and see if there is anything possible.


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