I’ve been wanting to go to Tsukiji Fish Market (also known as Tokyo Central Wholesale Market) since forever. Finally managed to do it in Tokyo before the end of the year.
What’s up with Tsukiji?
My travel guidebook says it has more than “400 species of seafood weighing over 2500 tons from all over the world” arriving at the market every day. It’s a big thing — seafood is a big thing in Japan!
Tsukiji Fish Market is the place to be for restaurateurs. They go to the market every morning to stock up their fish supply and they arrive super early since the fish auction starts at 3AM to 5AM in the morning.
Only a small number of tourists are allowed to be at the auction area to witness the tuna auction (with plenty of restrictions to adhere to… like not being a nuisance to the serious auction that’s taking place). How does one be part of the tuna auction? Arrive super early… before it starts and before the tourist quota is reached!
During peak time (like the end of the year), tourists aren’t allowed in at all, but if you arrive early enough, you’ll still get to see lots of fish being cut and distributed to the buyers.
We were there at the end of the year, which means that the auction wasn’t open to tourists at all. We figured we’d just go… for the sake of going.
What’s there at the Tsukiji?
Outside the Tsukiji station there were a lot of people. The area’s pretty lively. You see most people heading to one direction and you can tell that’s where it is. There are 3 main areas in the market’s compound — the fish auction area (where the auction is), the inner wholesale area (where serious buying and selling are happening) and the outer wholesale area.
Our trip to Tsukiji wasn’t that exciting, but again, I’m writing this for the memories.
The auction area
So we arrived. Late. The venue of the auction was, as expected, empty, if not for the large boxes used to keep the fish that were left. The auction had ended hours ago.
(I wish I could witness the auction in the future but at the moment… waking up as early or staying up as late as 3.30AM to be part of it sounds impossible for me.)
We still saw men working outside the market, though, busy transporting things with the turret trucks, from one place to another.
The wholesale market
Instead of going to the inner market (where most of the seafood are and it smells), we went to the outer wholesale market.
The makeshift stalls meters away mainly sold seafood, but it also had fresh produce, dried foods, plates and bowls and chopsticks and traditional kitchen utensils like pots and pans and knives. Here’s where you can buy things for cheap and some would make good souvenirs!
There were rows of stalls offering freshly cut fish, sold relatively cheaper than most places in Tokyo and they were super packed with people.
The locals can stand it. Queueing is totally their thing, even if it takes them 3 hours for a bowl of sashimi.
There were still stalls along the roads surrounding the market selling fresh seafood and hot food. If being in crowded places is your thing, by all means, sit by the roadside (they prepare tables and chairs) and have some sashimi. We walked past the crowded lane just to get a feel of the atmosphere.
It’s important to be super early! Some people go there at about 3.30AM just to take a peek of the auction (although the authorities there may halau you). Even if you’re not into the auction, arriving early means having access to the freshest seafood everrr without having to queue.
You can reach the Tsukiji Fish Market by exiting the Tsukiji station on the Hibiya line.
Finally, please read this really helpful write-up on visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market on the Tokyo Travel Guide.