The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the biggest seafood market in the world. Over the years the market has become a huge tourist attraction.
IMPORTANT Tsukiji Inner Market was relocated in October 2018. It is now called Toyosu Market. Tsukiji outer market continues to exist in Tsukiji. You can book a tour in the Tsukiji outer market and the new Toyosu Market here.
Tsujiki fish market is located quite centrally in Tokyo, near the Sumida River, the Ginza district and Hamarikyu Gardens. The market is divided into an inner market and an outer market. The inner market is the wholesale and auction area reserved for professionals and is generally off-limits for visitors. The outer market, which is much smaller, is more retail oriented. There are around 400 types of seafood, fish and seaweed on sale at Tsukiji market.
Visiting Tsukiji Outer Market
The outer market covers a couple of blocks around the main market hall. It has small restaurants, stand-up sushi kitchens, seafood shops and kitchen ware retailers catering primarily for tourists and visitors. The small, busy streets of the outer market are closely packed with the small shops, and makes for a great morning exploration which can be concluded with some breakfast sushi at one of the stands. Urban Adventures offers a great tour called Tokyo’s Kitchen, which includes Tsukiji Outer Market.
Visiting Tsukiji Inner Market
The inner market is where the action happens. The market opens at 3AM, but sadly it is off-limits for tourists until 11AM when the stalls start closing for the day. Inside the market area hundreds of stalls sell fresh fish and seafood delivered from the boats the same morning. The narrow paths between the booths are buzzing with dealers, chefs and restaurants purchasers all trying to secure the best fish and seafood for their business. Motorized carts zoom back and forth with boxes of fish and ice. The cart drivers show little care for people on the way, making it a hazardous place for a non-professional.
Even if you have to wait until most of the action is over at 11AM, it is still well worth the visit. You can get a good sense of the atmosphere and impressive size of the market despite it being less busy. If you really want a sense of the early morning business at the inner market, then there is one private tour which will take you inside the early morning action: the Insider Tour of Tsukiji Market.
Tsukiji fish market has a daily tuna auction. Here the impressively large and heavy fish are auctioned off to local dealers or stall holders of the market. The fish weigh up to 300kg (660lbs) and are valued based on quality and color of the meat as well as the size. The most expensive tuna which has been under the hammer at the Tsukiji auctions was sold for $1.8 million dollars in 2013. At 222kg (489lbs) that is more than $8100 per kilogram. With that price, you’d need to cough up at least $1620 for a 200g (7oz) tuna steak! The fish was used for Sushi in the purchasers 24h sushi restaurant in Tokyo.
The auction allows 120 observers per day. Tourists are allowed in on a first-come-first-served basis. To gain access to the auctions one must apply for admission at the information center, which opens at 5AM. However in recent years popularity has increased and lines can start forming already at 2AM. My personal opinion: skip the auction – it’s not worth loosing a nights sleep over.
The Tsukiji fish market in it’s current form dates back to 1935. The first official fish market in Tokyo (then Edo) was established in the early 1600’s by shogun Tokugawa Leyasu. The market was established so that the local fishermen could sell their fish to the castle. Fish which wasn’t sold there was sold near the Nihonbashi bridge, which was an important point for traffic at the time. Up until 1923 the fish market by Nihonbashi bridge continued to exist. It was destroyed in the huge earthquake of 1923. After the disaster the market at Tsukiji was built as a replacement.
Sadly, the historic Tsukiji market will be moved to more modern facilities – presumably in the fall of 2018.
It has long been planned that Tsukiji market should be relocated to Toyosu, on the other side of the river. This is due to worn down facilities and the exceptionally expensive property the market occupies in the middle of the Tokyo. The market was first set to move in 2016. It was then postponed, and the latest news at time of writing is that the market will close on October 6 2018 and reopen at Toyosu on October 11.
Tours and reservations
If you feel more comfortable being guided around the busy market, then these popular tours are great options for you:
All the sushi at Tsukiji is delicious and fresh, but if you want the top of the top sushi experience then reserve a seat at this Michelin Star sushi restaurant at Tsukiji:
By train: the nearest station to the Tsukiji information center and the outer market is Tsukiji station. The “Hibiya line” of the Tokyo Metro stops here. The nearest station to the inner market is Tsukijishijo station. The “Oedo line” of the Toei Subway stops here. From either stop it’s a 2-4 minute walk to the market area.
If you hold a Japan Rail Pass and want to travel free then Shimbashi Station is the nearest station with a JR train. The “Yamanote line” stops here.It is a about a 15 minute walk form Shimbashi station to the market area.
Tsukiji market is located in walking distance from Hamarikyu gardens, which can easily be visited afterwards.