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Katsuura Fish Market: Score heaps of fresh tuna for eats at Wakayama's lively port town!

Katsuura Fish Market: Score heaps of fresh tuna for eats at Wakayama's lively port town!

Date published: 12 November 2019
Last updated: 25 May 2020

The Katsuura fishing port in Wakayama Prefecture boasts the largest catches of raw tuna in the country (according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2015).

The Katsuura Fish Market is a bustling, popular tourist facility famous for its freshly caught tuna, seafood, and regional specialties.

Here we will tell you about how you can see the tuna auction, enjoy a sumptuous breakfast at the morning market, the making of original canned goods, and other interesting things to see and do at the Katsuura fishing port!

Table of Contents
  1. First thing to do at Katsuura Market is to watch the tuna auction!
  2. Just walking around the bustling Katsuura Fish Market is exciting!
  3. The direct sales corner hosts an exciting selection of regional Wakayama specialties
  4. Enjoy fresh seafood from morning while caressed by gentle ocean breezes
  5. The exciting tuna filleting event was about to get underway!

Nachikatsuura in Wakayama Prefecture is a popular tourist area famous for the magnificent scenery of Ki-no-Matsushima and Katsuura hot springs.

Katsuura Port is one of the main tuna ports in Japan. Regardless of the season, it always has huge tuna hauls. The facility is open to the public so they can enjoy the lively atmosphere of this fishing port, making it truly a spot where tourists can enjoy themselves.

We arrived at the Katsuura Fish Market shortly after sunrise.

First thing to do at Katsuura Market is to watch the tuna auction!

It is held at 7 o’clock in the morning. There already were many auction participants when we arrived busily preparing for the auction.

We were able to take a peek at the auction area...

Wow! Tuna from that day’s catch were lined up everywhere. They were all large and over a meter long. They looked quite impressive up close.

Tourists are not allowed into Katsuura Market's auction area so as not to interfere with the auction, but there is an observation deck on the second floor from where you can observe the auction.

We were given a special explanation by an official on the day we visited.

“In the case of tuna, it is more of a bidding process than auction. Buyers write the number of the tuna they wish to buy and the price they want to pay for it on a piece of paper which then goes into a box. Then the contents of the bids are read by a market official who then announces the winning bidder."

At that point the winning bidder is given the right to that tuna. Sometimes the tuna is packed in ice in Styrofoam or wooden boxes and shipped to another market.

This happens very quickly because the value of the tuna depends on its freshness. As the auction progresses the number of tuna steadily diminishes.

"Albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, marlin...All types of tuna catches are brought here. At this time of year the hauls are rather small; today’s was about 50 tons. When there is a big haul more than 100 tons of tuna will be sold.”

That is too large a number for me to fathom, but just watching the auction of such a large amount of tuna was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Tuna auctions are not something you can easily see, so if you have the opportunity to see one I am sure you will enjoy it.

  • Wakayama Prefecture Fishery Cooperative Federation Katsuura Market
    和歌山県漁業協同組合連合会 勝浦市場
    • Address 7-8-2 Tsukiji, Nachikatsuura-cho, Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0735-52-0951
    • Tour Hours: Auction begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends when all tuna have been sold
      Closed: Saturdays (Please check the website for other scheduled closed days.)

Just walking around the bustling Katsuura Fish Market is exciting!

After enjoying the tuna auction we next visited the bustling Katsuura Nigiwai Fish Market. This facility is located next to the fishing port. It is just as lively and full of activity as the auction.

▲The recently renovated Katsuura Fishing Port Nigiwai Market

Katsuura fishing port boasts having the largest tuna hauls in the country. This tourist facility was opened in order to enable visitors to learn more about Katsuura and in it there is a corner that serves food made with local ingredients as well as a corner that directly sells local specialties.

You first come to the direct sales corner when you enter the facility.

The direct sales corner hosts an exciting selection of regional Wakayama specialties

Vegetables, fruit, eggs, and other items grown locally as well as processed seafood and gift items are sold here. Handcrafts in addition to food are also offered.

Especially popular are the vinegar made with the water of Katsuura Nachi Falls and Nachi black candy.

You can also buy the Yatagarasu Dharma here which is indispensable for those making a pilgrimage to Kumano Sanzan. Many of the items offered here are only available in Katsuura. I found myself wanting to buy many of them.

Enjoy fresh seafood from morning while caressed by gentle ocean breezes

From the direct sales corner we went next to the food corner. Here you can enjoy tuna and other various Katsuura dishes. So before doing anything else, first have breakfast here.

▲ The food corner in the Nigiwai Market. True to its name, the market is bustling with people in the morning.
▲ There are about 8 shops selling food here. Each serves up a menu of fresh seafood items typical of Katsuura.
▲Mr. Akihiro Hori who operates the Horichu Liquor Shop in the food corner

“Visitors who stay overnight drop by here to eat breakfast and also buy souvenirs of their trip,”

Mr. Hori happily told us. Mr. Hori’s liquor shop sells local sake brands and snacks in addition to beer and other drinks.

There is also a wood deck eating space at the Nigiwai Market. Meals taken here while caressed by ocean breezes are twice as delicious. It is nice to have a lavish breakfast like this sometimes.

After leaving the food corner we noticed a large group of people in the back.

The exciting tuna filleting event was about to get underway!

An announcement to that effect prompted a large crowd of people to gather.

The tuna to be filleted had just been purchased at the adjacent Katsuura fishing port.

“First you take off the head. If the tuna is really large it requires the use of a saw.”Everyone craned their necks to see the tuna being filleted as they listened to the explanation by the shop owner mentioned earlier who sells tuna dishes.

Adults and children alike looked on in amazement as the tuna was quickly filleted. Seeing all the tuna lined up at the market auction was impressive, but seeing a tuna filleted before one’s very eyes is equally impressive. This filleting show was very entertaining and included sale of the filleted tuna as well as a quiz in which the weight was to be guessed.

  • Katsuura Nigiwai Market
    勝浦漁港にぎわい市場
    • Address 7-12 Tsukiji, Nachikatsuura-cho, Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture (next to the Katsuura District Wholesale Market)
    • Phone Number 0735-29-3500
    • Hours: Sunday 8:00 a.m. ~ 11:00 a.m. (Held on rainy days)

If you feel a bit tired after walking around the market you can soak your feet in the foot bath in front of the Katsuura fishing port.

▲ The Umi-no-Yu foot bath

Soaking your feet in the foot bath while watching fishing boats in the harbor is a great way to relax.

  • Umi-no-Yu
    海乃湯
    • Address 7-12 Tsukiji, Nachikatsuura-cho, Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0735-52-0555
    • Open: 6:00 a.m. ~ 10:00 p.m.
      Closed: open daily
      Admission: no charge
      0735-52-0555 (Nachikatsuura-cho Tourism Planning Section)

Look, eat, and experience.... You can do all of this at the Katsuura Fishing Port Nigiwai Market. As the old saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm”, and that applies to enjoying Katsuura. Be sure to visit Nachikatsuura when you are in the area!

Text by:Advision

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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