Tsukiji Fish Market — an unintentional brand

Tokyo — one of the most amazing cities in the world. Home to 13.6 million people with another 13 million or so visiting every year.

So what’s the number one place to visit whilst in Tokyo according to Time magazine? The Meiji Shrine? Yoyogi Park? Shibuya Crossing? The Skytree?

Nope, none of these. It is in fact the fish market.

Tsukiji Fish Market has become a huge tourist destination in Tokyo, even with the need to get there before dawn to catch it at it’s best. But how did this happen? The fish market wasn’t created as a tourist destination — it was and still is a working fish market. In fact, before you enter the market you are warned that this is a working fish market, and is a place of work for many people. As such, if you want to photograph people at work you must first ask for their permission. Probably more importantly, you need to have your wits about you (which is difficult before dawn) as there are people whizzing around moving fish and yet more people working on the fish with unbelievably sharp implements.

For all the mayhem, for all blur of activity, maybe this is precisely why Tsukiji Fish Market has become the number one tourist attraction in Tokyo — and an unintentional brand. Authenticity.

Many brands strive to find and convey their authenticity to their audience. They will search for ways to show that what they are doing is genuine and has a purpose that is more than for profit. The Tsukuji Fish Market brand has started from a place of authenticity. There is no pretence. There is little direct promotion or marketing. It is simply the fish market of Tokyo, an intrinsic part of the history and heritage of the place.

Maybe this isn’t true but does seem to have become a huge ‘brand’ by accident. Whether shaped by accident or design, what isn’t debatable is that the Tsukuji Fish Market brand retains its authenticity by first and foremost being a fish market. The tourist are welcomed (if ignored at times), booths selling sushi have been set up, some stalls to sell goods to visitors are there — but it is a fish market.

Although the Tsukiji Fish Market brand seems to have mushroomed by accident (or maybe clever design), there is much that many brands can learn from the impact the brand has by retaining it’s focus on what is at it’s core.

Unfortunately, this brand may well be in it’s last days. The market is being moved after 80 years of operation on it’s site, and as such there is a film about the Tokyo institution — Tsukiji Wonderland. Take a look at this amazing place, and brand.

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