9 Things you should know before visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

The Tsukiji Fish Market appears in literally every guide book about Tokyo and on most people’s tour itinerary plus entrance is free! It is the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo, and one of the largest fish markets in the world. It also has a kick-ass Tuna Auction before the sun rises most mornings. The Tsukiji Fish Market is destined to relocate to a larger and slightly more inconvenient location (in Toyosu) – a move that will be complete in late 2016. However, until then, there is a giant fish market and live tuna auction just begging to be seen.

Also, did I mention the live tuna auction is free?

Tsukiji Fish Market Live Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan

1. To watch the famous Tuna Auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market, you must get there at around 4:00am.

The opening hours are 3:30am – 6:00am and there are two sets of 60 people who are allowed to watch the action; the first tour is allowed to watch the auction between 5:25am and 5:45am, the second tour is allowed to watch the auction between 5:50am and 6:10am.

Click here for the calendar schedule to check the days the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction is open (red dot means closed). Sunday is always closed and Wednesday is regularly, but not always closed.

To be in one of those two sets of 60 people (120 people total), you need to arrive more than an hour ahead of time – yes the best time to visit is 4:00am. They have two different color vests to differentiate between the groups. If there are still spots available, they will give you one of the vests. As soon as they run out of vests, you are out of luck – it really is first come first serve.

However, this also means…

Tsukiji Fish Market Live Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan

2. You must spend the night somewhere near the Tsukiji Fish Market.

One of the things you may or may not have noticed about Tokyo is the fact that there is no 24 hour train (or bus) service in the city. Simply put, no trains are running at 4:00am, when you need to arrive at the fish market. As a result, you must spend the night somewhere near the market if you want to visit the live tuna auction.

The Tokyo Cheapo recommendation is, of course, the Com Com Manga café, a five minute walk away from the market. Other options include Jonathans, the 24 hour family restaurant with a drink bar, and any of the nearby Karaoke rooms.

If your cheapo comfort levels don’t quite drop to “Sleeping in a chair at an Jonathans” then we’d suggest: Just by the nearest station (also called Tsukiji) two business hotels exist literally across the street – 1) Business Hotel Ban, usually around $73/night 2) Ginza Capital Main Hotel, around $74/night. Or you can cheapo it up and stay at a capsule hotel about 20mins walk away First Inn Kyobashi, about $27/night. You can also take a taxi from your hotel to the fish market, but depending on where it is, that can end costing more than an entire night at the Manga café or even the one of the business hotels nearby!

3. It is cold.

During the winter, the waiting lounge is not heated very well. And by “not heated very well” I mean “not heated at all.” Bring a jacket. The auction area is similarly frigid – especially since the tuna are frozen (and must remain frozen).

Tsukiji Fish Market Live Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan

4. You can’t wear flip flops, high heels, or anything that counts as “inappropriate footwear.” (Whatever that’s supposed to mean)

5. It is ok to sit on the floor.

Depending on when you get to the auction, you will have to wait one to two hours. They won’t tell you, but it is alright to sit on the floor. Most people try to hold out for about thirty minutes, before eventually giving up and sitting down.

Let go of your pride. Sit on the floor. Your legs will thank you alter.

6. Food and drinks are not permitted inside the waiting area or auction floor (but if you are sneaky about it, you should be fine).

This is pretty self-explanatory.

7. No flash photography.

You can record videos and take as many pictures as you want as long as flash is not involved. Apparently they had problems in the past when tourist’s flash photography blinded some of the people doing the auction, so bids were skipped over. Now they have a zero-tolerance policy on flash photography.

Tsukiji Fish Market Live Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan

8. They will kick you out in a heartbeat.

The Tuna Auction in Tsukiji Fish Market is a legitimate business that has been operating for 20 generations (or at least that is what they claim). If you interrupt the auction or disturb their business, they will kick you out. You are not paying to be there; they are getting nothing from you. As a result, they owe you nothing.

If you are polite, respectful, and follow the rules, the Tsukiji Tuna Auction is a fantastic and unforgettable (not to mention free) attraction. If not, well, I don’t actually know what would happen.

9. Get breakfast in the Tsukiji Fish Market after the auction.

Learn more about Tsukiji

If you are in the first group, you will get kicked out of the auction room in Tsukiji Fish Market before 6:00am. Don’t worry. The fish market is up and running long before 6:00am; you should try to grab breakfast at one of the local shops after you watch the tuna auction. It will make you appreciate the fish so much more. There’s a variety of eateries offering a tasty raw fish menu from donburi to sashimi and plenty catering to the cheapo budget

All in all, the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction is fun. It is one of the best free things to do in Tokyo, if you have time (or like punishing yourself by waking up early), you should check it out!


Fun Bonus Fact: The first tuna auctioned each year at Tsukiji market is also the most expensive tuna of the year and often reaches an astronomical price. Quite understandable given the flurry of press attention as a result of paying truly ridiculous amounts for a dead fish.

Correction: The post originally stated that the reason for the market moving to Toyosu was the number of tourists who attend the auction. However, the actual reason is to free up high value seaside real estate for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Location Map:

Name: Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction
Pricing info: Free
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Access: Tsukiji Station
Web: http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/english/
Phone: +81 3-3547-7074
Business hours: 3:30am - 6:00am (Usually closed on Wednesdays)

Grace is an American college student, so by default, that makes her cheap. She spends her time cooking, biking all across Tokyo to save on train tickets, and going to midnight grocery sales to buy newly-expired food for a fraction of the cost. As a part time blogger and a full time student, she has plenty of time to explore Tokyo.