The Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, handling more than 2,000 tons of marine products a day. Although the market wasn't originally intended to be a major tourist attraction when it opened in 1935, Tsukiji now regularly shows up on visitors’ lists of must-see destinations in Tokyo. Witnessing the fresh tuna auction before the sun rises is the primary draw.
The market is comprised of two areas: the public Outer Market, which features shops, sushi, and various market stalls; and the Inner Market, where the famous fresh tuna fish auctions are held. The Tsukiji Market is often visited with a tour guide on city walking and biking tours. Fish market tours can also be combined with other Japanese cuisine experiences, such as sushi making classes, cooking classes, and tastings. Nearby attractions seen on sightseeing tours include the Hamarikyu Gardens, the Asakusa district, and the upscale Ginza neighborhood.
Tips for Viewing the Tuna Fish Auction
Whether you're a sushi connoisseur or just starting to appreciate this popular cuisine, it’s a unique experience to stand amidst freshly caught tuna the size of small children and observe how quickly the pieces are snapped up and carted off to be sliced into nigiri and more.
- The early morning tuna fish auction is free and open to the public, although registration is on a strict first-come, first-serve basis and typically opens at 5am before the first 20-minute viewing at 5:25 and the second at 5:50am.
- It’s best to arrive at least two hours early, as crowds are large and the maximum number of visitors allowed in each viewing group is 60. Lines are known to queue up as early as 1am.
- You’ll know you’re getting in if the staff provides you with a vest and directs you to a waiting room where you can sit on the floor if necessary. Keep in mind that there is no flash photography.
- Be sure to dress warm and wear comfortable shoes.
How to Get There
Tsukiji Fish Market is located in central Tokyo above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo subway line. It is also a five-minute walk away from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya subway line. If arriving by rail, the Shimbashi Japan Railways station is a 15-minute walk away from the market. Note that trains and buses do not run 24 hours in Tokyo; you can take a taxi to the market or plan on finding lodgings nearby.
When to Get There
Tsukiji Market is open Monday through Saturday, with closures on holidays and occasional Wednesdays. Shops in the Outer Market have varying hours, but the area is generally open between 5am and 2pm. The Inner Market has strict rules—the height of business occurs in the morning, and tourists are not permitted inside until 9 or 10am.
- If you find yourself in the Inner Market, be cautious of moving machinery and be mindful of the many rules.
- Take advantage of the many restaurants and vendors in the Outer Market that offer some of the best sushi chefs and freshest seafood you’ll ever taste. Having a sushi breakfast after a long wait for the tuna auction is commonplace.