10+ Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Grace Buchele Mineta
Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Stewart Butterfield used under CC

The Tsukiji Fish Market appears in literally every guidebook about Tokyo and on most people’s tour itineraries—and cheapos appreciate that it has free entrance. It isn’t just the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo and Japan, it’s numero uno for the entire planet. It also has a super-famous Tuna Auction before the sun rises most mornings.

Note: The planned Tsukiji Market relocation has been postponed until Fall 2018 at the earliest.

The Tsukiji Fish Market is destined to relocate (despite considerable opposition) to a larger and slightly more inconvenient location in Toyosu—a move originally set for November 7, 2016. However, it was recently announced that the move to the new site has once again been delayed. So, until (and if) the final moving date is confirmed, there is still a giant fish market and a unique tuna auction to be experienced.

Be a conscious consumer of both the Tsukiji experience and sushi. Learn how to protect bluefin tuna and other fish that are in danger of being eaten to extinction by using this guide to sustainable sushi.

1. To watch the famous Tuna Auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market, you should get there at around 3:00am, or even earlier

The market’s opening hours are 3:30am to 6:00am and there are two sets of 60 people who are allowed to watch the action. The first tour is allowed to attend the auction between 5:25am and 5:45am, the second tour is allowed a view between 5:50am and 6:10am. However, you’ll need to arrive earlier to ensure you reserve your spot; during peak season this might be as early as 1am! If you’re not sure how early or late(?!) to leave it, you could consider going with a private guide, who’ll know exactly when you need to turn up.

Make sure you check the calendar below. Sunday is always closed and Wednesday is regularly, but not always, closed.

Experience the energy and excitement of early morning at Tokyo’s premier Tuna Auction at the Tsukiji fish market in this tour with a private guide!

click here for details
Promoted

2017 Tsukiji Market Calendar (red indicates closed)

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To be in one of those two sets of 60 people (120 people total), you need to arrive more than an hour or two ahead of time—yes, the best time to visit is between 3:00am and 4:00am, and during peak tourist season we’ve heard of people starting to queue much earlier. 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. During peak tourist times (spring and fall), both sessions may fill up before 5:00am, so the earlier you get there, the better.

However, this also means…

Tsukiji fish market

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’ll need to spend the night somewhere near the market if you want to visit the live Tuna Auction.

One recommendation is Com Com Manga café, a five-minute walk away from the market. Other options include Jonathan’s, 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 Jonathan’s”, then we suggest two business hotels that exist literally across the street from the nearest station (also called Tsukiji): Business Hotel Ban, usually around ¥11,000 per night; and Ginza Capital Main Hotel, around ¥9,000 per night.

You can always cheapo it up and stay at a capsule hotel about 20-mins walk away—First Inn Kyobashi, which is about ¥3,800 for a night. You can also take a taxi from your hotel to the fish market, but depending on where it is, that can end up costing more than an entire night at the manga café or even one of the business hotels nearby!

3. It is cold

During 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

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

Wear sensible shoes. You might feel like your grandma, but just do it.

5. It is OK to sit on the floor in the waiting room

Depending on when you get to the Tsukiji market, you will have to wait one to two hours. They won’t tell you this, but it is alright to sit on the floor. Most people try to hold out for about 30 minutes before eventually giving up and sitting down.

Let go of your pride. Sit on the floor. Your legs will thank you. Also note that there is absolutely nothing to do in the waiting room. Bring a book, magazine or extra batteries for your phone so you don’t drain it browsing other awesome articles on our site.

Tsukiji fish market
Photo by civ33 used under CC

6. Food and drinks are not permitted inside the waiting area or auction floor

But if you are discreet about it and don’t consume food in the actual auction hall, you should be fine.

7. No flash photography

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

8. They will kick you out in a heartbeat

The Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Fish Market is a business-first event. It’s been operating for 20 generations (or at least that’s what they claim), so if you interrupt the auction or disturb their business in any way, they will boot you out. You are not paying to be there; they are getting nothing from you. As a result, they owe you nothing. Harsh, but good to keep in mind. If you are polite, respectful, and follow the rules, the Tsukiji Tuna Auction is an unforgettable experience.

Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Alessandro Capurso used under CC

9. Get breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market after the auction

If you are in the first group, you will be moved out of the auction room before 6:00am. Don’t worry, the fish market is up and running long before then, so you should try to grab breakfast at one of the local shops after you watch the auction. It will make you appreciate the fish so much more. There are a variety of eateries offering a tasty raw fish menu that ranges from kaisendon (a seafood and rice bowl) to sashimi, with plenty catering to the cheapo budget.

10. There’s a lot more to the market than the tuna auction

There are two main parts to the market: the outer market to the west of Harumi Dori, with numerous small shops and chains; and the inner market with its chaotic motorized trolleys, narrow paths and stalls selling everything from sea urchin to whale meat (yes, sadly). Guards will tell you that the inner market is closed to tourists before 9:00am. However, this is not strictly true. It’s only off-limits to people not buying. If you make a purchase, you can explore the area.

If you’re staying somewhere without a kitchen, something like uni (sea urchin), shirasu (white bait) or ikura (salmon roe) is ideal for putting on plain rice that you can pick up from a convenience store. If you plan on venturing in before 9:00am to buy something, you should say “kaimono” (shopping) to the security guards to indicate that you aren’t there just to gawk at the fish and get in the way. The inner market winds down by about 10:00am, so if you really are there to gawk, you should plan to venture in between 9:00am and 10:00am.

Tsukiji fish market

Extra tips

Finding a good tour guide for Tsukiji Market

While Tsukiji Fish Market is a free attraction and it’s perfectly enjoyable to explore on your own, you might be interested in making things a little more fun or informative by going on a tour with an independent guide. There’s quite a lot of variety on offer; for example this guide will take you to the fish auction, and there’s also this top-rated sushi-making and Tsukiji Market tour. Here’s a full list of tours available for Tsukiji Market.

Where to eat sushi at Tsukiji

The short answer is, ANYWHERE! After all, it’s Tsukiji, so it doesn’t really matter which eatery you choose—everything is going to be super fresh and tasty. There are plenty of choices in the outer market too. We often see tourists lining up for 2-3 hours to go to “the best” sushi restaurant (or so their guidebook claims), but unless you’re a sushi gourmand on a mission to eat at a specific spot, you’ll probably have an equally enjoyable meal wherever you choose to dine.

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.

Interested in learning more about visiting Tokyo on a budget? Get our top Tokyo Cheapo ‘hacks’ in your inbox—sign up to the mailing list just below this post.

And finally, check out this YouTube video on Tsukiji, featuring our very own Cheapo Greg:

This post was originally published July 30, 2013 and is regularly updated. Last update July 2017.
Name: Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction
Pricing info: Free
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Location(s): Tsukiji,
Phone: +81 3-3547-7074 +81 3-3547-7074
Business hours: 3:30am - 6:00am (Closed on Sundays and some Wednesdays)
Places Mentioned

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68 Responses to “10+ Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction”

  1. I like your buzzfeed inspired title, certainly got me clicking on the link. Turned out to be an interesting read! Thanks!

  2. Kensei

    “This tuna auction has become such a tourist attraction that it has pushed the Tsukiji Fish Market to relocate to a larger area (in Toyosu) – a move that will be complete in late 2016.”

    OK… I’ve lived for over 6 years about a 5 minute walk from Tsukiji. This statement is not even remotely true. The reason for Tsukiji moving has absolutely nothing to do with tourists visiting the tuna auction. The market is really beat up and has asbestos issues. It either needed to be rebuilt or moved. Many Tsukiji folks wanted to stay but the Tokyo city government wanted it to be moved. There was a big struggle but now it’s being moved.

    I went to the tuna auction several times before all of the current rules were put in place. I’d say the auction is OK… but I’m not sure it’s worth having to get there at 4 AM. I personally like seeing all the other stuff at Tsukiji more such as walking around the wholesale area near the tuna auction; plus you can arrive at a much more civilized 6 – 7 AM.

    Finally, most Wednesday’s the market is closed. I see lots of disappointed tourists on Wednesdays.

    • CheapoGreg

      You’re quite correct that the market isn’t moving because of the tourists – I’ll edit the post accordingly. I have heard they have some serious industrial pollution issues with the site but I don’t think that’s the reason they’re moving either.

      • The current site has some asbestos issues that I assume could have been corrected through remodeling. You’re correct that this was not the root reason for moving to Toyosu.

        The Toyosu site has even bigger issues due to pollution of the top-soil by Tokyo Gas, the previous occupant. Supposedly, the polluted soil has been removed.

  3. Scuttle

    So…I’m mostly interested in walking around and seeing the market and to get a taste of sushi at Sushi Dai, when is a good time to show up for that?

    • Grace

      I think you can show up any time after around 8am for that. I’ve gone in the early afternoon and had some delicious sushi. Most restaurants stay open until AT LEAST lunchtime.

    • You can get sushi 24/7 in Tsukiji (e.g., Sushizanmai). I don’t recommend going to Sushi Dai in the inner market; the sushi is good but the wait is horrendous (well over an hour). Sushi Dai has several shops in Tsukiji and they serve exactly the same sushi course you can get at the inner market shop. In fact, my guess is that the other branches are better since only tourists go to the inner market branch. Main difference is the other shops don’t open early in the AM. The cost for a sushi meal is roughly in the 1,500 – 3,000 yen range.

  4. Hi,
    i am looking for an address in the tsukiji. I find a seller of japonese dishes and his mother, the only in the market but i lost his address. Is someone know, i would like to thanks them.
    is someone can help me i would be very grateful

  5. Yvonne

    Hi Grace,

    From the Tsukiji Mkt calendar, 19Jul is shown as open. But just to double confirm, is the Tuna Auction on as well or just the market itself operational since is a Saturday?

    • CheapoGreg

      People still need their sushi, so yes, it is.

  6. MagentaSwallow

    Hi Grace,

    How far were you standing from the main auction activity? Pictures 1, 4 & 5 give an impression that you were really close to the tunas – were the pics cropped or it’s actual size because they were really that close? I’m curious because I am trying to decide which camera lenses to use during the auction, and I don’t want to focus my time switching lenses during the only 25-min chance I have in the auction. Thank you!

    • Hi Magenta,

      I was pretty close. The pictures were cropped, but not by very much. I was probably 10 – 15 meters away from the action…?

      If you want pictures, make sure to push your way to either side BEFORE the auction starts. A lot of people kind of just stood there until the action started, and then tried to push their way to the front.

      • MagentaSwallow

        Hi Grace,

        Awesome, thank you! I am already getting very excited about the visit. It’ll be my first time there. 🙂

  7. Hi Grace,
    I heard that it is quite difficult to get the tickes to the Tuna Auction as a lot of guides would snap them up. Is this true? If not, when do you think would be the best time to start queing for the ticket? Thank You!

    • It depends. You’re not allowed to pick up tickets for someone else (you don’t get a physical ticket, they just let a certain number of people into the room, and once the room is full, they shut the doors).
      I got there at 4:00am with my friends and the room was only about 1/3 full. By 4:30am, the room was full.

      But it also depends on the season…

    • CheapoGreg

      Guides or guided tours are officially not permitted, although some people run private tours anyway.

  8. Hi Grace,

    I wondered if you’d thought about the fact that the tuna auction is helping to kill off a species that is massively endangered and overfished. One wouldn’t encourage people to go to a black rhino auction or a blue whale auction. i love sushi and goodness knows i enjoyed bluefin tuna before i found out how endangered it was, but in this day and age surely it’s wrong to encourage support of killing off a species by going along to their auctions as a tourist attraction.

    here’s some good links on the issue:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/09/overfishing-pacific-bluefin-tuna
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/magazine/27Tuna-t.html?pagewanted=all

    sorry to sound sanctimonious, that’s not my intention.

    best,

    calum

    • Kai Adarna

      shut up you idiot. just don’t go.

    • CheapoGreg

      You don’t actually pay anything to observe the auction so by watching it you’re not necessarily supporting it. Also, AFAIK hunting black rhinos and blue whales is all sorts of illegal whereas Pacific Bluefin is yet to be restricted. There are ethical concerns with all sorts of fishing though, so fair point.

  9. This is all useful information, thank you so much for the post! However, i was wondering if you know the opening dates for the tuna auction in 2015? I’ll be visiting Tokyo from 26th Dec to 2nd Feb 2015, but only have time for the fish market after 30th Dec. Please help out!! Thank you very much in advance 😀

    • CheapoGreg

      We’ll update our calendar soon, but just to let you know, there are lots of days when it is closed in January. It’s closed from the 1st to the 4th, all Sundays as well as the 7th, 12th, 21st and 28th.

    • CheapoGreg

      There has been a change in regard to the tuna auction. See our note at the top of this post!

  10. Hi Grace,

    Just wanted to ask if the dates for December are accurate? We are planning to go this December 27 but a friend of our from Japan said the market will be closed starting December 27.

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Johanne, Yes, our calendar is correct, your friend I’m afraid is incorrect! Most Japanese companies start their new year’s break around the 27th but the market doesn’t begin until the 31st. It’s not open until the 5th of January so if they closed on the 27th they’d be closed for over a week! It’s a working market – if it’s closed they can’t sell fish.

      • Thanks for the reply…

        • CheapoGreg

          Johanne,
          An update for you. Tsukiji Market has announced the tuna auction will be off limits to visitors from Dec 1st, 2014 until Jan 17th, 2015. The market will still be open though, but you don’t need to go at 4am. Even if you go around 8 or 9am it will be pretty interesting. Not so crowded at that time either.

  11. Thank you for this really informative post. Do you have any idea how much a taxi fare from shinjuku will cost to go to Tsukiji? And if there would be any taxi available at 3 am? Your post has made me reconsider staying at the nearby hotel for practicality and perhaps lesser cost. Any help would be appreciated 🙂

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Alex,
      Sorry we didn’t get back to you on this! The cost of a taxi would be about 3,500yen from Shinjuku Station to the market. At that time of morning, you might have to reserve a taxi – which will add a few hundred yen to the price. I don’t know when you were planning your trip, but they’ve announced that the tuna auction will be off limits from December 1st, 2014 until January 17th, 2015.

  12. #6 is upsetting, Grace. It’s bad manners like this that give tourists a bad reputation. At least try to be respectful by not bringing any food/beverages in–and don’t endorse it.

  13. I went there a couple weeks ago. Got there at about 6:00 am and followed a small group of tourists from the subway station that hired a guide. We had no vests, and were told by a cop/security guard that we were too late and had to leave. I walked around a couple buildings myself and joined a tuna auction – interesting, but not worth getting there at 4:00am for! After about 15 minutes, another cop/guard yelled “hey guy!” at me and nastily told me to get out pointing the way out. I checked out the market stalls and took the subway back to my hotel for the breakfast.

    • CheapoGreg

      Guides aren’t actually permitted, but lots of people do it unofficially. 6am is too late for the auction. It’s also when the inner market is at its busiest. It’s a working market that doesn’t really make any allowances for tourists, so if you get in the way, they don’t mind telling you! Personally, I prefer to go there around 8 or 9am. By then it’s a lot quieter, so you can wander around and no one takes much notice. If you’re going to miss the auction, there’s no point in getting up so early!

      • I tagged onto the guide group mainly to get from the subway station to the auction. It was probably actually about 5:30 – late but I was able to stand against an asbestos-caked wall (trying to be out of sight) and observed a good 15 minutes of tuna auctions. I lived in Tokyo working for Mitsubishi 25 years ago and remember bigger tuna then. But those were Japan’s golden days…when Roppongi rocked, the beautiful art deco Marubiru still existed, and the Okura was the hotel one aspired to stay at (being torn down soon).

        I’ve spent years in Japan’s factories and know where to walk, so felt pretty safe, but could see the danger of tourists getting hit by a cart. The securtity guard that kicked me out was just being a dick (even though I wasn’t following the official rules). I think soon most tuna will simply be bought/sold online as a farmed commodity with uniform qualities that make bidding pointless.

  14. Hi Grace, saw a notice tt from dec 1 2014 to jan 17 2015, tourists will not be allowed to watch the morning tuna auctions, is it true? Thanks.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks for bringing that to our attention! That is indeed correct. The market has released a notice saying that the tuna auction will be off limits for that time due to pressures at the end of the year and going into the new year.

      • hello! thank you for this article! I read here that even if the inner market is closed on sundays, the outer market for dining and other products are open. I checked the calendar for thf new though and saw that the market is closed til jan 5, 2016 as shown in their calendar, the dates til Jan 5 are marked red. You think the outer market will still be open for dining? thanks so much and happy nee year!

        • CheapoGreg

          Hello Ning, Sorry for the slow reply. The outer market is not officially part of the market – it’s basically a bunch of private businesses located in a large city block, so each have their own opening hours and holidays. I’m sure there would have been some places open.

  15. We will be visiting the market with our son, who is 15 months old. Do you know if there are any age restrictions for the tour? We planned to carry him (no stroller).

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Steve, Carrying your son is definitely the best idea – strollers are not permitted in the inner market. The main thing to remember is that it’s a working market with very few concessions for tourists – so you’ll need to keep an eye out for motorized carts etc.

    • CheapoGreg

      Actually, I should clarify – I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking your son to the auction. For a start, you have to get there at 3:30/4am. The waiting room is small and cramped, you wait there for a really long time and then when you watch the auction you have to be dead quiet so you don’t interrupt. My previous comment was meant for a general visit to the market.

  16. Hi Grace,

    it a great information for my plan to visit Tsukiji fish market before it move out. have you came across this Tsukiji Guide tour before ? http://www.tsukijitour.com/index.html
    wonder is it authentic and worth a try..

    • CheapoGreg

      Tsukiji Market doesn’t seem to permit official tours, so I’m guessing this is unofficial. Sorry, I’m afraid I can’t comment on whether it’s worthwhile. I do know that you can get tours on experience marketplaces like Voyagin which might be more personalised.

  17. I’m in Tokyo now and my friend and I tried to go to the tuna auction yesterday. We arrived at 3:30 am and were told that we came too late and the spaces were already filled up. If anyone wants to see the auction, it’s advised that you arrive before 3 am now.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks for the info. The time you visited was absolute peak season so you were a bit unlucky! Outside of Hanami season you can probably still turn up around 3:30am.

  18. This was super helpful, thanks! I am staying at First Cabin Tsukiji, a very handy location for visiting the fish market early in the morning.

    • CheapoGreg

      Recent comments have indicated that during peak season even turning up at 3 am might be too late. You probably won’t have much choice but to stay up most of the night – or get an early night and head out around 2am.

  19. Hello, does anyone know if wheelchairs are allowed? my elderly father would like to see this auction but he mainly gets around on a wheelchair. He is able to walk short distances, or for a few minutes but would not be able to stand or sit on the ground while waiting to get into the auction area. Would a wheelchair be allowed in this waiting room?

    • CheapoGreg

      The only rule I could find was that if you visit with a wheelchair you must have someone with you to help maneuvre it. However, it is a workplace and it’s up to the participants to dodge trucks and carts. They also don’t take any responsibility for accidents. The tuna auction would probably be easier than touring the inner market though. On a recent visit I got lightly hit by a motorbike – and I’m relatively nimble! Let us know how you go. Would be nice to be able to add some info in the article.

  20. Awesome information. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I just saved myself and 3 other people from waisting a night. I love sushi and can’t wait to go there when it is actually open, running, and on time. It is going to be my third try. 🙂 third time is a charm!

  21. Ciprian Valceanu

    Why did I end up paying JPY3780 for breakfast?

  22. ZuKa Conde

    Hello, I would like to know where can I see the dates for October? Thanks!

  23. ShowupAt3

    note — you should actually show up at the auction at 3 am. i turned up at 4 am last week (in the first week of september) and the auction was already over. in fact, the auction ENDED at 3:50 am. was kind of misled by the article, but otherwise everything is good. just FYI

    • CheapoGreg

      Hello there. Do you speak Japanese? I think you may have misunderstood what the attendants were saying. The English of the guards and attendants is very limited so they might have just told you “finished” if all the places were taken. I can assure you that the auction does not take place at 3:50am.

  24. killerblueskies

    Hi Grace, I just came across this article and would like to find out if the tuna auction will be closed this December as well? I’m visiting in Mid-Dec and would like to view it.

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi There, Greg here – I’ve updated this article a number of times. It’s hard to say what they’ll do this year as they won’t tell anyone until it’s decided. The announcement last year was rather sudden and it was closed to the public from mid December until the second half of January. My advice would be to visit as early as you can. Note that the outer and inner market are still open – it’s just the tuna auction that is off limits.

  25. hi there,

    Are you able to advise what the “peak season” is for the markets?

    many thanks
    A

    • CheapoGreg

      The market doesn’t really have a peak – it’s busy all year round. However, the peak tourist season in Tokyo is from March to May and again in September to November.

  26. Hey Grace,

    I’ve visited Japan last summer, but sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to Tsukiji Fish Market. After hearing news that it is going to relocate near the end of next year, I hope to be able to make it there before that happens though my chances aren’t very high.

    In the worst case, if I didn’t get to see the Tsukiji Fish Market at it’s current location, what will I be missing out? Will there still be the auction as well as the same kinds of fish in the past at Toyosu? (new location) I would be very sad if I am (potentially) going to be missing out a lot things.

    -Henry

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Henry,
      I’m not Grace, but I’ve edited and added to this article a number of times. At Toyosu you will be able to see the same auction, but it will be at a brand new 21st century facility with a viewing area for tourists that will be separated from the people in the auction. So it will be very safe, clean and,,, a little more boring. At Tsukiji there is little allowance for tourists and you’re literally right in the middle of the action. I think some people might even prefer Toyosu to Tsukiji, but it will probably have a much less authentic feel.

  27. Jeemee Goh

    Hi, I am only keen to visit the external market for food and some dried/preserved stuff, do you know if they are open on sundays?

    • CheapoGreg

      The market itself is closed, but you can expect a few retail places to be open – probably no need to go there early. For example, there are half a dozen branches of Sushizanmai in and around the outer market and they’re mostly open 24 hours a day.

      • Jeemee Goh

        Hey Thank you!, haha not big fan of sushizanmai, im more interested in the older shops that sells the ramen and the motsu with gohan for breakfast!

        cheers!

  28. Thought I’d give a couple new tips since I just went to the auction on 4/12/16.
    Many are encouraging people to arrive around 3am to be sure to make one of two
    (either 5:25am or 5:50am) auction slots, but that’s now too late, as of this writing. Perhaps because of the market’s impending
    move in November 2016, ending an era and tradition since World War II, more are
    vigilantly attempting to catch it. A
    sign posted on the window by the fish information center, where the cue starts
    to get into the waiting room, now says they open the doors to the waiting room
    between 2:00am – 2:20am. That’s because
    there’s already a line long enough to fill out the first group by then! It’s insane, but the Tues. morning when I was
    there, the last vest (used as a golden, neon entry ticket) for the first group
    was given out at 2:25am. I was told a
    few days before by the gendarme in the info booth that some actually start
    lining up at 12:30am!

    So on the day of my visit, I already had a simple
    strategy. Get there by 1:45am. I wanted to be in the first group to attempt
    the duo of death (‘cause it will absolutely kill your sleep)–wait for the
    auction, then wait at Sushi Dai. I
    recommend, as I did, doing reconnaissance of the market to get oriented to it a
    day or two before attempting the auction.
    Those maps online that you see of the market are neither to scale nor
    clearly positioned. The market is much
    larger than it looks on the map. Some
    suggest going here your first day in Tokyo to take advantage of the jet lag, but
    I wouldn’t if you haven’t cased it first.
    The last thing you want to do is come here late the first night where
    there are few people around. And the
    ones you do find probably don’t speak English.
    And the foreigners you see running from this way and that, who look
    English-conversant? Are probably too preoccupied
    and smart to stop and talk to you on the way to beating you to the auction
    line.

    To help orient you, the street right next to the waiting
    room and fish info center is Harumi Dori.
    I suggest getting to the market via this street. Look for the big bridge that’s just past the
    wait area. In fact, the wait line will eventually
    snake onto it from the info booth.

    I took someone’s cool advice to try and bunk nearby. Since trains and cabs can’t really be found
    in Dracula hours. (More on my lodging
    below.) And I headed out to the auction
    line at 1:25am. I strolled slow and easy
    figuring I’d be way up on the cue.
    Wrong! As I approached, I admit I
    panicked a little as there was already a marked stretch of humanity outside the
    wait room. I made a semi-controlled dash
    to the back of the cue, and started counting.
    30 people! I was #31, and I was
    there at 1:47am. There were actually 30
    more insane than I in the world…or at least in Tokyo at that moment.

    At 2:15am, the gendarme opened the door to the wait
    room. We filed in, taking the prized
    neon-green vest. Everyone soon planted their
    seats on the hardwood floors. It was packed.
    People were making new friends, left and right. Some broke out a game of 13 card poker. And
    then the very last vest for the day was given out at 3:12am! Pity the poor who woke up early and
    sacrificed sleep, thinking that arriving at 3:30am was good enough.

    By the way, before the trip, you might want to work those
    quads and gluts. At the wait area and in
    the market, there are only squat toilets!
    Gave a whole new meaning to the term, “septic shock, “ for this North Cali boy.

    But back in the room… the waiting. Only a little over 2 hours to go…which was
    excruciating. The fatigue just kind of
    slowly envelops you. Even the most macho
    of manly men couldn’t stay up. Just
    about everyone found some way to lie down and contort to fill various body
    parts between small crevices of people-space to catch some brief moments of
    slumber. I was surprised I was knocked
    out for a good few myself. Woke up with
    about 20 minutes to go. Everyone was
    getting anxious as the big moment was impending.

    Finally, the gendarme
    released us into the cool morning air as we then trekked about 100 yards through
    the streets to the actual auction floor.
    Here’s a caveat: I was one of the
    early ones, so I was lined up as part of the first layer on the left of the
    observation corridor. Those later filed
    in behind and then beside me on the right.
    It was great in that I got to look right up into the biggest tuna
    viewing section. But then the bidding
    actually started to the right! There are
    several viewing and bidding areas, and the observation corridor is kind of in
    the middle. Now I was disadvantaged
    because there were two rows of visitors in front of me. I couldn’t see the auctioneer, just the
    bidders in front of me. I had to raise
    my camera over people, and hope that I was capturing it all. (I did for the most part.) The bidders were flashing cryptic finger
    signs.

    But the treat for me was that, even though I couldn’t see
    the nearest auctioneer, I could see the one in the next section over to the
    right. Yes, more than one auction
    simultaneously. He was a character,
    shouting, pointing and dancing in rhythm during the entire auction. Hopefully, you’ll get to see him, too. (The closer one was quite a bit more
    subdued.) The bidding itself was just over
    4 minutes. Just think—wait for 4 hours
    to watch for 4 minutes. But for me,
    getting to scratch this one off the buck-it list, to witness a slice of history
    before it disappears, was worth every second.

    Now about the lodging.
    Everywhere I looked was relatively big bucks for even few-starred hotels. I was going the cheapo route, since I would
    have to spend a night at the 5 star Prince Sakura Tower. This way the hotel’s concierge would get me
    into Sukiyabashi Jiro. (Yeah, THAT Jiro.
    But that’s for another review.) And, so, Airbnb. I found listings for rooms in the mid $20!!! What’s the catch, right? Well, it seems like these might be a kind of
    lodging trend in Japan. Bare bones
    “rooms” with a bed. Kind of
    like hostels, only they aren’t bunks, and you get your own
    “room.” The quotation marks
    are because the “rooms” (ok, yes, I’ll stop now) are really plywood
    cubicles with four walls and combination-locked door. The walls only go up about 2 meters high—maybe
    two feet short of reaching the ceiling, so it’s open top. But for most, that’s high and private
    enough. You get a bed, a desk with small
    lamp, an electrical outlet with two ports, a mirror and one nail holding up a
    coat hanger. (Some rooms have more than one bed.) The you-get-what-you-pay-for moment is that
    there is no box spring. There is only a
    cot and comforter atop a big plywood rectangle.
    That was too hard for me, but I worked around it by sleeping on top of
    my cot AND comforter. Because the whole
    floor was well-heated, I didn’t need to be under the comforter. This worked for me and my fish auction-Sushi
    Dai quest. It may not for you, but if it
    does, head on over to Airbnb and type in Tsukiji. Then look for the rooms hosted by
    “T.”

  29. Ellard

    Yes. There is def more to Tsukiji than just the tuna auction. Great seafood delights abound. https://youtu.be/_7DSMjQQhcc


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