Tsukiji Fish Market is the sushi mecca for visitors to Tokyo. Located about 1.5km south of Tokyo Station, Tsukiji is the most famous of the twelve locations operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market and is a venerable institution dating from 1935.
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While actually not exclusively a fish market (Tsukiji also deals in fruit, vegetables and meat) it is most famous for its fish. Tsukiji is referred to as Uogashi (魚河岸, literally “fish riverside”) in local parlance.
Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the largest seafood market in the world, with many interesting activities and attractive specialties.
Tsukiji fish market is one of the ideal places to buy and enjoy fresh seafood. According to Lonely Planet, nearly 2,500 tons of fish, which is worth 15.5 million US dollars, is sold at the market everyday.
The sight of the many kinds of fresh seafood and the busy atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers hurrying around, make Tsukiji Market a major tourist attractions. In fact, the numbers of visitors have increased so much over recent years, that they have become a problem to the course of business, as the aging market’s infrastructure was not anticipated to serve as a tourist spot.
Tsukiji Market consists of an inner market where most of the wholesale business and the famous tuna auctions are taking place, and an outer market whose retail shops and restaurants cater to the public. A few restaurants are also found in the inner market. In order to avoid interference with business, different rules should be followed when visiting the different areas of the market:
A basic map of Tsukiji Market:
Visiting the wholesale area
Adjacent to the auction area is a building full of tiny wholesale stores – more like booths – selling the freshest marine produce. These are open even on days when the market is closed.
The wholesale area consists of hundreds of small stands in a large, crowded hall, where buyers and sellers hurry along narrow lanes with their carts and trucks. It is an exciting area for tourists to view and photograph the fish and the action, but it is also an area where tourists are likely to interfere with the professionals at work.
Consequently, in order to prevent accidents and interference with business, tourists are not allowed into the wholesale area before 10am, when the peak of the business activities take place. Even when visiting after 10am, tourists are asked to refrain from bringing any luggage into the market and to be constantly alert of what is happening around them to avoid blocking traffic.
Visiting the tuna auction
The tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market, which starts at 5am, is the main attraction for curious onlookers. The auction at Tsukiji Fish Market can be watched – and, more to the point, listened to – from the sidelines. It is a seeming cacophony of shouts and cries, amidst which men with picks bend over huge frozen tuna inspecting them for their quality. No flash photography!
The number of visitors to the tuna auction is limited to 120 per day, the maximum number which the market’s infrastructure can accommodate. Tourists, who wish to see the auction, have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 5:00am (or earlier on busy days) on a first-come, first-serve basis. A first group of 60 visitors will be admitted to the auction between 5:25 and 5:50, while a second group of 60 visitors will be admitted between 5:50 and 6:15.
Visitors usually start lining up hours before 5am, and the maximum number is likely to be exceeded, in which case later arriving visitors will not be able to see the auction. Successful applicants will be able to view the auction from a designated visitor area. It is not allowed to view the auction from anywhere else or to use flash photography or to interfere with the business action in any other way.
Bluefin Tuna being sold at an auction to serve who wants to buy the first tuna of the year is one of the tradition of Japan.
This year, a bluefin tuna weighing 200 kg was sold for 117,000 US dollars for Kiyomura sushi chain store.
According to Reuters, compared to the fish last year, the price of the one this year is 39,000 US dollars higher.
Sellers usually carefully check the tuna’s quality before it is up for auction. Bluefin Tuna is considered as the most expensive and popular type of fish.
Visiting other areas of the market
Instead of visiting the inner market, tourists are encouraged to visit Tsukiji’s outer market, which is located just adjacent to the inner market and caters to the public. The outer market consists of a few blocks of small retail shops and restaurants crowded along narrow lanes. Here you can find all sorts of food related goods, knives and fresh seafood and produce for sale in smaller (than wholesale) portions.
A visit to Tsukiji Market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast or lunch at one of the local restaurants. There are restaurants both in the inner and outer market area, which are typically open from 5:00 in the morning to around noon or early afternoon.
Both indoor and outdoor areas are noisy, bustling from dawn until 1 PM-when market is closed and cleaned. Indoor area will be moved to another area of Tokyo in late 2016.
In the outdoor area, visitors can try all seafood dishes, from crab legs to grilled fish.
The alleys besides the market have numerous stalls selling pottery, cookware and packaged foods.
Tsukiji market has plenty of fresh delicious sushi stores and also supplies raw fishes for many upscale restaurants. In the picture above, a chef of Sushi Zanmai chain restaurant is checking a new piece of tuna cut in Tsukiji market.
The indoor area will be moved to a more modern facility in Toyosu to create space for Tokyo reconstruction.
Tsukiji fish market moving
Important: Tsukiji Market is expected to close and move to a new site in Toyosu in the near future. The move was originally scheduled for November 2016, but then delayed indefinitely by the governor. It is now expected to happen around winter 2017/2018 at the earliest.
Hours & Fees
Outer Market: varies by shop, typically 5:00 to 14:00
Wholesale Area: open to visitors after 9:00am
Tuna Auction: open to visitors from 5:25am to 6:15am (restricted to 120 visitors/day)
Sundays, national holidays and some Wednesdays (see “English Links” below).
The tuna auction gets closed to tourists for a few weeks over New Year (December 1, 2016 to January 15, 2017) to ensure a smooth and accident free course of business during that busy time of the year.
A few more general rules for visiting Tsukiji Market and Behavior at Tsukiji Tuna Auction
The behavior of visitors to Tsukiji market is a perennial problem. Access has been considerably restricted because of friction between tourists and those working at Tsukiji. Since Tsukiji Market is a site where serious business is conducted, it is important for visitors not to interfere with the action by adhering to the following additional rules:
- Do not enter areas restricted to authorized personnel!
- Do not obstruct traffic!
- Do not bring large bags or suitcases into the market!
- Do not enter the market in high heeled shoes or sandals!
- Do not bring small children or pets!
- Do not smoke in the market!
- Do not touch anything!
- Stay within the areas allotted.
- No touching of produce.
- Be aware of workers’ movements so as not to get in their way.
- No flash photography – especially during the tuna auction.
- No large bags or backpacks.
- No pets
- No pre-schoolers
- As for attitude: be discreet!
Tsukiji fish market tour
Explore the renown Tsukiji Market with a professional, English-speaking tour guide! Watch the infamous Tuna Auction (optional add-on) in the early morning and explore the Tsukiji Fish Market afterwards in this extensive tour! You can make an online reservation at here.
How to get to Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji Market is just above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a five minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Subway Line. The closest JR station is Shimbashi, from where you can walk to the market in about 15 minutes.
From Tokyo Station
Take the Marunouchi Subway Line from Tokyo to Ginza (3 minutes) and transfer to the Hibiya Subway Line to get to Tsukiji Station (3 minutes). The fare is 170 yen.
From Shinjuku Station
Take the Oedo Subway Line directly from Shinjuku Station to Tsukiji Shijo Station. The one way trip takes 20 minutes and costs 270 yen.
You also see more Tokyo travel guide at here.