There’s something fishy in the air, but that’s how you know you’re arrived at Tsukiji Outer Market. This bustling open air market is high on the list of top Tokyo attractions, and there’s something for everyone — not just the seafood lovers.

tsukiji outer market
A bustling street in the Outer Market | Photo by Adriana Paradiso

What is Tsukiji Market famous for?

Photo by Maria Danuco

In short, fish. Once upon a time, Tsukiji Market had two parts — the ‘Inner Market’ and the ‘Outer Market’. The Inner Market was home to a wholesale fish market that held the title for the largest market of its kind on the entire planet. It also held the incredibly famous tuna auction each morning, drawing tourists from around the world. The Outer Market meanwhile gained a reputation for the high quality seafood restaurants which sprang upalongside a wide variety of other shops in the area.

However, in 2018 the Inner Market wholesalers moved to the new Toyosu Fish Market while many of the Outer Market vendors stayed in Tsukiji. Don’t let that put you off, though — the Outer Market remains, and the food is still excellent. Many shops had long-established relationships with the wholesale market sellers who have moved to the new Toyosu Market, so now the Outer Market vendors make their way over to Toyosu every morning to buy the same fresh products they always have.

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Note: Today, the market area is generally referred to as ‘Tsukiji Outer Market’, but if you hear ‘Tsukiji Fish Market’ or ‘Tsukiji Market’ instead, not to worry, it’s all the same place.

What is Tsukiji Outer Market like?

Fresh is best | Photo by Maria Danuco

Like many attractions in Japan, Tsukiji Outer Market took a hit during the pandemic, but it’s bounced back, and is well worth a visit. It’s quite similar to wet markets you might find in other parts of Asia — a little ramshackle, but lively. Admittedly, it’s a bit touristy but not as much as other markets in Tokyo like Nakamise or Ameyokochō. You’ll find fewer cheap and tacky souvenirs, for example. There’s also little to no haggling culture or overly enthusiastic stall owners. Some workers speak very good English, but after telling you about their product/shop — and maybe giving you a sample — you’re free to be on your way.

The market area takes up a few blocks, but there are two streets that are by far busier than the others — Tsukiji Nishi-dōri and Tsukiji Naka-dōri. It doesn’t matter if you arrive via Tsukiji Station or Tsukijishijo Station, these two streets are the first you’ll encounter. They run parallel to the big main road Shin-Ohashi-dōri, and the further you go from there the quieter it will get. We recommend exploring the quieter streets too — there are small shops and restaurants tucked in the alleys.

If you pay enough attention you’ll also notice that the market is still popular with locals. So with that in mind, do be respectful — don’t touch produce you’re not going to buy and avoid eating while walking.

Pro tip: You can visit the new Toyosu Fish Market and the historic Tsukiji Market on the same day. We recommend seeing the tuna auction at Toyosu in the early morning and then moving onto Tsukiji for a fresh seafood breakfast and some shopping. See how in our Toyosu Market guide (simply scroll to the end).

What is there to see and do at Tsukiji Outer Market?

Slightly overpriced kaisen-don at Tsukiji | Photo by Gregory Lane

Eat. Seriously, Tsukiji Market offers a colorful variety of freshly sliced sashimi, dried seaweed and fresh fruit and vegetables. You’d be doing yourself a diservice if you didn’t try at least something here. Our recommendation though, is to take it slow. There are plenty of shops and different cuisines to choose from, but your stomach can only fit so much. The market isn’t huge, so take a wonder from one end to the other first. Then on your way back grab yourself some grub at the places that stood out to you.

Also, give yourself a bit of time to shop. While it’s probably better to leave the buying of ingredients to the pros and locals, you can still pick up some great souvenirs — especially if you’re a home cook. There are shops selling Japaneses knives, kitchen utensils, and tons of other stuff related to culinary pleasures.

The lion protector at Namiyoke Shrine | Photo by iStock/tanukiphoto

The market also has its own shrine, Namiyoke-jinja — the name means “protection from the waves.” It is the guardian shrine of Tsukiji, and traders come here to pray for good business. The shrine itself fairly small and unassuming, but well-maintained. It’s a very short walk from the main part of Tsukiji so if you like shrines consider stopping by.

What to eat at Tsukiji Market

A well priced nigiri plate | Photo by Maria Danuco

Clearly, we have to recommend trying some seafood — preferably raw. There are a variety of eateries offering a tasty raw fish menu that ranges from kaisendon (a seafood and rice bowl) to sashimi and sushi. Or if you’d rather your fish cooked, there are a few seafood barbeque places. Keep an eye on prices though — premium quality and freshness, or even just the perception of it, can cost you. A five piece nigiri sushi plate could cost ¥2,000 at one place, but more than twice that at the shop next door.

Pro tip: For a visual guide to the various types of sushi, check out Sushi University.

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Another great cheapo way of enjoying the market is to grab some of the fresh sashimi to go. You can sit down and eat your grub on the third floor rooftop of the market buildings at the west side of the Outer Market.

Fish shaped sweet pastry at the fish market | Photo by Maria Danuco

If you’re not a fan of seafood at all, well, first we have to wonder who dragged you here. But then we’re also going to tell you not to worry — there’re plenty of non-seafood options. Wandering the streets you’ll find vendors selling tamagoyaki (Japanese style omlete), yakiniku (barbeque meat skewers), and even dumplings. There are also a few sweets vendors and cafes, with a special shout out to the shop selling taiyaki (fish-shaped sweet pastries) — we love the pun.

Where to eat at Tsukiji Market

Some like it hot? | Photo by Greg Lane

The short answer is: ANYWHERE!

The longer answer is: it depends very much on your budget and what you want to eat.

You could head to “the best” sushi spots (according to the guidebooks), but to tell the truth, everyone else will have the same idea. You’ll likely end up facing long lines and high prices. Unless you’re a sushi gourmand on a mission, you’re probably going to enjoy your meal just as much at the next restaurant down the block. And honestly, that’s our recommendation. Wander a bit further from the main two streets, and watch the prices drop from ¥3,000 for a five piece nigiri plate to as low as ¥1,000.

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 our guide to sustainable sushi.

If you’re more hands on, a unique way to enjoy some seafood at Tsukiji is with a barbeque. Tsukiji BBQ allows you to shop for your desired food and drinks at the market and take them up to the rooftop of the Tsukiji Uogashi Kaikoubashi Building. Here, you can start grilling, and if you have bought enough, you can even expect discounts on space rental.

A dumpling stall at Tsukiji Market

Non-seafood options are a bit more limited. They tend to be located closer to the busier part of the market, but thankfully the prices don’t vary as much. The aforementioned tamagoyaki or dumplings are generally less than ¥500 per piece, while a chicken curry is about ¥1,000.

Tours and tour guides

Joining a tour is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of Tsukiji Outer Market — especially if you’re into food or history. Tour guides often have local insights, and of course, plenty of food recommendations. There are plenty of options to choose from as well, such as this Tsukiji food and walking tour (¥14,875) or this half-day tour (¥13,000). You could even opt for a combined tour and sushi making experience (¥20,081).

Another option for if you’re really into fish markets is this Toyosu and Tsukiji combined tour (¥14,000, food not included).

Brief history of Tsukiji Fish Market

So many clams | Photo by Maria Danuco

Tsukiji Market — then officially called the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market — first opened in 1935. It was built to replace the fish market in the Nihonbashi area that was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. A lot of work was put into researching and designing the market, especially because it was one of the largest reconstruction projects after the earthquake.

Unforunately though, the design of the market didn’t stand the test of time, and after World Ward 2 it became apparent that Tsukiji Market couldn’t keep up with modern demand. Decades of debate followed, with lots of different options being suggested until a decision was finally made in 2020 to move the market to Toyosu. Queue nearly two more decades of delays until the market was finally moved in 2018. There are plans to further develop the Toyosu Market complex by 2040 (but let’s not get too excited just yet, delays are probably inevitable).

As for the old Inner Market building? Well, it was demolished and served as a transport hub for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (delayed to 2021). The land is incredibly valuable thanks to its central Tokyo location, but no decisions have been made yet about what will be permanently built in its place.

Bonus: Check out this YouTube video on the old Tsukiji, featuring our very own Cheapo Greg.

So is Tsukiji Market still open?

Yes! That’s we’ve been talking about this whole time afterall. Even though the wholesale market (and its tuna auction) moved, there is still plenty happening here. Moreover, it retains much of the character of Tsukiji past: every single corner of Tsukiji Outer Market still has more character than the sterile, ultra-modern Toyosu Fish Market.

Tsukiji Outer Market Access

A quiet moment before the crowds arrive | Photo by Maria Danuco

There are two subway stations within walking distance of Tsukiji Inner Market. Tsukijishijo Station is on the Toei-Ōedo Line, providing direct access from neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Roppongi and Azabu-Juban. Meanwhile, Tsukiji Station is on the Hibiya Line and can be accessed directly from Nakameguro, Akihabara and Ueno.

When is the market open?

While Tsukiji Market doesn’t have official opening hours, most shops keep hours that are in line with old market rhythyms. This means many shops are closed on days when the wholesale market — now in Toyosu — is closed (Sundays, public holidays, and many Wednesdays; see the schedule here).

Generally speaking, most shops are open from around 5 a.m. to around 2 p.m. — this is because many food industry professionals still use the market for their daily needs. Restaurants and shops that are more geared to tourists might have more typical opening hours, like 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are also a few restaurants in the market that stay open for dinner.

When is the best time to visit Tsukiji?

The old adage of the earlier the better still applies here. If you can get there before, say, 9 a.m. things are on the quieter side. Meaning you’ll be able to walk down some of the busier streets without bumping into people. Towards lunchtime things begin to get more crowded. If you want to try your luck at one of the more popular seafood restaurants, we recommended arriving at least 30 minutes before the advertised opening time.

The information in this post, though we do our best to make sure it’s correct, is subject to change. Post originally published on July 30, 2013. Last updated in December 2022 by Maria Danuco.

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