Tsukiji Fish Market has appeared in literally every guidebook about Tokyo and is high on most visitors’ Tokyo bucket list. Even after the wholesale market moved to Toyosu, there is still a lot happening at Tsukiji, and Tsukiji Market remains a Tokyo highlight. Find out more about what you can see and do at Tsukiji. And if you’re curious, learn a little bit about the market’s storied history.

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

What is Tsukiji Market famous for?

tsukiji outer fish market sushi donburi bowl
Seafood breakfast at Tsukiji | Photo by Adriana Paradiso

For decades, Tsukiji Market wasn’t just the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo and Japan; for many years it held the title for the entire planet. It also had a super-famous tuna auction that was held before the sun rose most mornings. Unfortunately, the tuna auction and city-run wholesale market at Tsukiji moved to the shiny new Toyosu Market in 2018.

What remains is what was once called the “Outer Market”, the unofficial market that sprung up around the city-run wholesale market. Today, it’s just called Tsukiji Market. The approximately 150 meter by 250 meter (500 ft by 820 ft) area is made up of narrow alleys and 100s of ramshackle shops that continue to serve professional buyers, keen home cooks, and passing visitors.

So Tsukiji Market is still open?

Yes (with caveats). 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 Market still has more character than the sterile, ultra-modern Toyosu Fish Market.

If you have an interest in sushi, seafood, or cooking, the Tsukiji Market should be on your Tokyo itinerary.

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.

What is there to see and do at Tsukiji Market?

tsukiji outer market fish on display
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Tsukiji Market offers a colorful variety of freshly sliced sashimi, dried seaweed, fruit, vegetables, fish, sushi knives, kitchen utensils, and tons of other stuff somehow related to culinary pleasures.

Many shops had long-established relationships with the wholesale market sellers who have moved to the new Toyosu Market, and now simply buy the same fresh products there every morning. Toyosu is a bit over 2 km away, a straight line from Tsukiji Market. The sellers display their goods, as fresh as ever, in the same old location, simply bringing them over from the new market.

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 lion protector at Namiyoke Shrine | Photo by iStock/tanukiphoto

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).

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. 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 here before, say, 9 a.m. odds are the market will be far less crowded then later in the morning.

Eating at Tsukiji Market

You can grab breakfast at one of the local shops in the market. 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. Lunch, of course, is also an option.

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

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 fresh and tasty. There are plenty of choices in the market. You might see long lines for “the best” sushi spots (or so the guidebooks claim), 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.

Photo by Gregory Lane

A great cheapo way of enjoying the market is to grab some of the fresh sashimi sold by many of the fishmongers, along with any other food that you fancy — fresh fruit, onigiri, perhaps a bentō box. You can sit down and eat your grub on the third floor of the market buildings at the west side of the Outer Market.

Another unique way to taste your purchases is with a seafood barbeque. Put down the camera and pick up the tongs. 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, expect discounts on space rental.

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

Finding a good tour guide for Tsukiji Market

While Tsukiji 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 local guide. There’s quite a lot of variety on offer; for example, you can join a food and drink tour as part of the experience.

Brief history of Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Market — then officially called the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market — replaced an earlier market in the Nihonbashi area that was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The new market opened for business in Tsukiji, on the site of the former foreigners’ settlement, in 1935. It was a state of the art facility for the time.

Although Tsukiji Fish Market was filled with hundreds of small wholesale operators selling everything from sea urchin to whale, the most famous part was the daily tuna auction in which giant bluefin tuna were sold for thousands of dollars each.

Getting up at 2 a.m. in order to queue to join a select group of visitors permitted to watch the tuna auction became a hugely popular activity with international visitors to Tokyo. Each day when the auction ended, people joined even longer queues outside Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi (both of which have since opened stores at Toyosu Market) to enjoy a sushi breakfast amidst the din of the market activity.

You can still experience the tuna auction at Toyosu, but it’s not quite the same. You now get to sign up a month before online for a time slot — find out more here. It still involves very early mornings though!

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

Why did the market move to Toyosu?

The official reason for the move was outdated facilities. (Though many speculated that the real reason was money: the city could sell or lease the valuable central Tokyo land that the market occupied). The move was unpopular with market vendors but went ahead anyway, after years of delays.

What happened to the old market?

The fan-shaped building that housed the wholesale market was demolished. During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021), the site served as a temporary transport hub. All kinds of ideas have been floated for the now vacant space, from a convention center to an amusement park.

Getting to Tsukiji Fish Market

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 update: May 24, 2020. Thanks to Mareike Dornhege for her assistance with the update.

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