Visitors formed long lines before daybreak on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Tokyo’s renowned tuna auctions — now at the Toyosu wholesale fish market — as an observation deck opened to the public for the first time since the relocation from Tsukiji in October.

“When you smell the fish you know that you’re part of the auction process,” said 62-year-old Canadian Jeff Graham. “You see them close up inspecting the tuna, grading it like you would any kind of commodity, so it was interesting to watch the process and how they did it.”

Visitors who won coveted spots to the viewing area — an elevated, glass-panelled deck with a partly open space overlooking the tuna auction rooms — huddled up against the glass in the early hours of the morning, watching as the auctioneers chanted prices while bidders made hand signals indicating their bids.

Visitors watch tuna auctions at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo from an observation deck that opened to the public on Tuesday. | KYODO

Atsuto Nakano, 54, who lives nearby and often jogs in the vicinity of the market, had often visited the site and watched the action from the windows of a second-floor corridor that runs the length of the auctioning area.

“You can’t hear what’s going on from the second floor though,” he said, explaining why he wanted to try the observation deck. “I wanted to smell and hear what goes on during the tuna auctions up close.”

Unlike at Tsukiji, where people were able to watch the auctions on a first-come, first-served basis, visitors must enter a lottery about a month prior to secure one of the 120 spots available.

Some visitors without bookings had to make do with watching the auctions from the second-floor corridor, but even with the limitations the experience won positive reviews.

People watch tuna auctions from a second-floor corridor at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo on Tuesday. | SAKURA MURAKAMI

“I thought that we could be up close, but it was still amazing to see all of the fish laid out and see the process of how it’s done,” said Alexander Tagiev, a 30-year-old designer visiting from Germany.

Markus Wolbert, a 33-year-old hotel manager based in Switzerland, agreed that the scene was “impressive” despite the distance.

“It’s not so important for us to hear everything or get as close as possible,” he said, adding that “just to see” the auctions was enough.

Visitors watch tuna auctions from the newly opened observation deck at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo on Tuesday. | SAKURA MURAKAMI

Public access to the tuna auctions had been suspended for a few months while the market moved from its previous location in Chuo Ward to its new site about 2 kilometers away in Koto Ward.

Visitors can register to enter the lottery for a spot on the observation deck either by phone or through the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market website. Admission is free.

By Staff Writer, The Japan Times

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