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Ringing in the New Year in Japan With Fresh Fish

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Citizen Media, Food, Photography
Kanazawa Omi Ichiba Market

“Winter has arrived in the North Country  (Hokuriku).” Photo by Nevin Thompson.

Observing the New Year (正月, shogatsu [1]) is one of the most important holidays in Japan. For nearly a week, almost everything shuts down all over the country as everyone spends a few days with relatives and loved ones.

When many family members get together, it's common to indulge in feasting, and in Japan this means gorging on seafood.

With some free time during the holidays, it's typical to head to a local fish market to search for the perfect fish to share with family members who have gathered for the holiday. The markets also offer an opportunity to catch a quick and delicious lunch of seafood fresh off the boat.

Here are how some savvy shoppers spent the final day of 2015 shopping for fish.

Snapshots of Tsukiji, the world's largest fish market

Often called the world's largest fish market and famous for its pre-dawn tuna auctions, Tsukiji(築地市場 [2])lies in the heart of Tokyo, just a short walk from the upscale boutiques of Ginza.

If there is a fish you want, Tsukiji will have it, and the wholesale market typically attracts hordes of visitors during the New Year's break.

the day of the new year's eve at the tsukiji fish market, Tokyo. [3]

A photo posted by Masato Sasaki (@masato.sasaki) on

Absolutely love the #tsukiji #fishmarket in #Tokyo. So much #vibrancy and #yummy sights to see. #travel #traveller #travelling #lifewelltravelled #japan #tsukijifishmarket #market #wanderer #tourist #bnw #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephotography #photography #photographer #photograph #photo #photooftheday #potd #camera #canon #5d #slr #fish #people [4]

A photo posted by Andi (@xxiamandixx) on

The fish that Japanese people traditionally eat over New Year's differs from region to region in Japan. Some parts of Japan may enjoy raw fish, while other regions will typically eat salted fish.

One winter delicacy that everyone in Japan loves is snow crab. It's also a fun and celebratory dish to share with family who are home for the holidays.

お正月用のカニを調達しに。 凄い人~!! #築地 #築地市場 #カニ #蟹 #お正月 #正月 #カニ鍋 #大晦日 #newyearseve #for #newyear #day #tsukiji #fishmarket #tokyo [5]

A photo posted by ゆーぽぽぽ (@up0x3) on

Searching for snow crab for New Year's. Look at all the people!!! #tsukiji #tsukiji market #crab #NewYear'sholiday #crabhotpot #NewYear'sEve

Crab is not cheap. Depending on the variety, a whole crab will sell for at least 7,000 yen (US$60), but 30,000 yen (US$250) for a whole crab is not unusual.

A photo posted by Mi—- Ki (@mmiiiiiki) [6] on

Red king crab, 30,000 yen (US$250)

Assuming there is space at the counter, while at the fish market busy shoppers will try to catch a quick meal of ultra-fresh seafood, like this “kaisen-don” bowl of fatty tuna belly, sea urchin and salmon roe:

アップ。うまい! [7]

A photo posted by @toshi0toshi2000 on

[This “kaisen-don” has fatty tuna belly, sea urchin and salmon roe]

Fish markets are fascinating places, filled with nooks and crannies and plenty of interesting activity.

こおいう路地が好き #築地 #年末 #大晦日 #築地市場 [8]

A photo posted by おちりえ (@ochirie) on

I love these little back passageways. #tsukiji #year-end #NewYear'sEve #TsukijiMarket

The 2015/16 New Year's holiday will be a bittersweet one for Tsujiki market in its current incarnation. If all goes according to plan [9], the market will be moved later this year to a modern, new facility elsewhere in the city to make room for construction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Omicho Market (近江町市場), Kanazawa

The old castle town of Kanazawa, which sits on the Sea of Japan in the heart of the “North Country” (Hokuriku) has its own fine market, known as Omicho Ichiba [10]. The cold Sea of Japan is where most of the crab in Japan is caught, making Kanazawa and the other towns up and down the coast synonymous with snow crab.

カニ #近江町市場 #ゲロ混み #ギャン混み [11]

A photo posted by egs0131 (@egs0131) on

Crab. #omichoichiba #holycowit'scrowdedhere #agh!socrowded

While Omicho market is almost the size of an entire city block, its concourses and passageways regularly get crammed with visitors.

大晦日は大混雑で身動きとれない… 前日でもいっぱい(笑) #近江町市場 #混雑 #身動きとれない #疲れる [12]

A photo posted by Tetsuo Mori (@minira.m) on

It gets so crowded on New Year's Eve you can't even move… and it was the same way yesterday, too! (lol) #omichoichiba #crushingcrowds #jam-packed #I'msotired

Crab is delivered to Omicho market fresh from the port. You can't really get fresher crab than this unless you catch it yourself.

カニいっぱい!! [13]

A photo posted by Makiyo Lin (@uneenfant__maki) on

Tons of crab! [Prices here range from 20,000 yen (US$165) to 35,000 yen (US$290) per head.]

Omicho market is also home to several “conveyor belt [14]” sushi restaurants. While conveyor belt sushi is generally regarded as being cheap in terms of both price and quality, the restaurants in Omicho offer truly fresh fish that can't easily be found anywhere else in Japan.

revolving sushi restaurant

Conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Omicho Market, Kanazawa. Photo by Nevin Thompson.

Shopping for fish at Sendai's Shiogama Fish Market (塩釜水産物仲卸市場)

Sendai, northeast of Tokyo, is also famous for fish. Locals typically head to the Shiogama fish market [15] at the port outside of town to find something to eat for the New Year's holiday.

友達の店に遊びに来たが人すげ〜 #Japan #miyagi #shiogama #ichiba #newyearseve #日本 #宮城 #塩釜 #仲卸市場 #塩釜水産物仲卸市場 #大晦日 [16]

A photo posted by Sei Satoh (@sei_satoh) on

I came to visit my buddy at his stall in the market, but holy cow what a lot of people! #Japan #miyagi #shiogama #ichiba #NewYear'sEve

Sendai and Shiogama lie in Tohoku along the Pacific seaboard northeast of Tokyo. This region of Japan is famous for bluefin tuna.

今年も来た。 元気をくれる場所 #朝5時 #海の幸 [17]

A photo posted by Nao Sato (@nappii_6) on

The New Year is just around the corner. This place gives me strength. #morning #5AM #bountyofthesea

[Container lid in foreground says “Shiogama maguro (bluefin tuna)”]

However, like any other wholesale fish market in Japan, Shiogama offers an almost unlimited amount of fish for purchase.

年末年始の買い出ししたった〜〜!見てるだけでお腹いっぱい✨ #shiogama #魚 #魚 #魚 #朝市 [18]

A photo posted by kanna (@syu0629) on

I'm buying fish for the New Year celebration! I'm full just by looking at the fish.

Japan's wholesale fish markets truly offer up almost anything, making them perfect places to find just the right ingredients for a memorable New Year's dinner.

おはようございます( ´ ▽ ` )ノ 市場に出掛けてお買い物 混んでます。塩釜市内あちこち渋滞してるし、市場周辺も駐車場がなかなかな空かないです。 朝3時には駐車場が一杯になったそうです。 みなさま良いお年を〜 Shopping at fish market. I go there every year at the end of December. It is very crowded. Traffic is jam and very hard to find a parking spot. Have a happy new year to you all [19]

A photo posted by Megumi (@takuan66) on

This article was researched using Echosec [20]‘s location-based social media search tool [20].