A wholesaler surveys frozen tuna at the Tsukiji fish market. Picture: Reuters

A visit to the teeming Tsukiji fish market, the world’s biggest, is free and is a must on any visit to Tokyo.

The market is more like a city, spread out over 23 hectares, and is the workplace of about 60 000 wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials and distributors.

Almost 500 types of seafood are handled at Tsukiji every day, and more than 600 billion yen (R59.8bn) worth of seafood is processed there each year.

Below grimy steel girders, polystyrene boxes are stacked high with every imaginable sea creature, prepared in every imaginable way.

Workers whizz through the narrow lanes on electric carts laden with goods, while chefs and retailers busily select the produce needed for the coming day’s trade.

Chunks of octopus tentacle sit next to what seems like hundreds of prehistorically huge crabs in cramped glass tanks.

An ecstatic-looking pink cartoon whale, up there with Bambi on a level of innocence, entices passers-by to try a row of barbecued skewers.

Tsukiji is far from the mechanical economy of a slaughterhouse – our group is stilled by the sight of a worker slowly slicing a massive tuna in two. With his long blade and solemn, careful movements, the act takes on a ceremonial air and the care and attention demonstrate why it’s impossible to find a bad meal in this city.

Tsukiji is an example of what Tokyo rewards most: observation. – The New Zealand Herald