Number one on the "top 10 places to go" list in Japan in TIME magazine online, the Tsukiji Fish Market definitely has its own charms that all fish lovers (and even those less attached to sea creatures), should not miss out on. Nevertheless, you should ask yourself a few questions before you go:

1. Are you comfortable in markets? (i.e. not exactly the cleanest floors)

2. Can you walk straight while the market attacks you with fishy scents?

3. Did you bring closed-toe shoes (or are you willing to make such a purchase)?

 

If your answer is 'yes' to all the above, then maybe Japan’s largest fish market is right for you. To reward your bravery and support your decision to step into such a unique territory, we have provided this short guide to visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Fresh tuna auction

Fresh tuna auction

1. The main areas of the Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji market is primarily split into two parts: the inner market and the outer market. While the outer market is open to all, only a very limited part near the entrance of the inner market is open to visitors. The inner market is where the wholesalers have their stores, and they are basically only open for the professionals. Due to the large numbers of tourists, the area outsiders can visit has shrunk in recent years.

Bird's-eye view of the Tsukiji fish market

Bird's-eye view of the Tsukiji fish market

 

2. Checking the fish market schedule

This might come as a surprise, but the market isn’t open 24/7. As a rule of thumb, it closes on every Sunday, every other Wednesday, and also on Japanese national holidays. As another general rule, it's better to arrive early.

The inner market is open to the public from 9am to 11am. 9am is when the wholesalers start closing their operations for the day and by 11am most of the shops are closed. If you wish to come during the operating hours before 9am or actually shop at the market, please contact us so that we can send an insider. With our sushi tour, you will have the opportunity to pick out ingredients with the chef in addition to eating sushi made by Tokyo's top sushi chefs.

The outer market is open for tourists and regular shoppers. This area is open at 5am and closes around 2pm. 

Regular fish auction

Regular fish auction

 

3. Dress code

Proper footwear is essential. You don’t want some scaly fish slapping on your bare foot or to trip while you’re in flip flops or heels. If you’re going in the very early hours, check the weather and wear layers. Even in the summer Tokyo can get chilly in the early mornings and late at night.

 

4. Transportation

For those who wish to observe the tuna auction, you need to arrive at 3am to line up (since only 120 people total can enter; the auction itself begins at 5am) you should know that public transportation (i.e. trains) in Tokyo stop around midnight and begin at around 5am. This leaves you with a couple of other options. The easiest way is to get there by taxi. If your hotel happens to be close by you can simply walk to the market. Another option is to spend the night at a karaoke place, a 24 hour cafe, or a budget hotel near the fish market. For those who are really ambitious, you can spend the night at a club in Ginza and walk to the market after they kick you out, although you may not be in great shape to visit the fish market after this.

Inner market

Inner market

5. Tuna Auction

You should plan to wake up early (or stay up all night) to arrive at the market at 3am. The best part about the auction is that it is free to watch. However, no talking, smoking or photography is allowed. The auction ends at around 5:30am and by then you can head over to a restaurant in Tsukiji for breakfast.

Most visitors can only observe frozen tuna being sold at the auction. However, if you participate in TOKI’s reserved tours, you will receive a premium pass to observe the fresh tuna (as opposed to frozen) auction, and you won’t have to get there at 3am to line up.

If you’re opting out of the tuna auction viewing, here is the access map provided on the Tsukiji official website with information for those traveling by train or bus.

http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/english/accessmap.html

Watching the interactions at the fresh tuna auction is exciting!  ©TOKI

Cutting the big tuna fish that just bid out from the auction

Cutting the big tuna fish that just bid out from the auction

 

6. General Rules to follow

This is a summary of what is posted on the Tsukiji official website:

  • DON’T touch the food,
  • DON’T try to bargain,
  • DON’T block the way (i.e. let vehicles go first),
  • and be respectful!

With so many visitors one might be tempted to think that the fish market is simply a tourist area. Keep in mind that the rules are set for Tsukiji fish market’s business operation to occur smoothly. Visiting the market is a rare opportunity to understand the complex interactions and exchanges that all go on behind the scenes before your fish makes it to stores and finally the dining room table. We hope this introduction to the market has been useful for you, and for those interested in more information or arranging a tour through TOKI, please follow the link below!


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