The Tsukiji Fish Market has appeared in literally every guidebook about Tokyo and is high on most visitors’ Tokyo bucket list. It wasn’t just the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo and Japan, it also held the title for the entire planet. It also had a super-famous tuna auction held before the sun rose most mornings. While the tuna auction and wholesale market is now closed due to the move to the shiny new Toyosu Market, there is still a bustling outer market area to explore that has no plans to move elsewhere.
Is Tsukiji still worth visiting?
If you have an interest in sushi, seafood or cooking, the Tsukji Outer Market should still be on your Tokyo itinerary. The approximately 150 meter by 250 meters (500 ft by 820 ft) of narrow alleys and ramshackle shops retains a sample of the now-inaccessible inner market. While the sheer chaos of the inner market is a thing of the past, just a corner of the outer market still has more character than the sterile, ultra-modern Toyosu Market.
Some Tsukiji history
Replacing an earlier market in the Nihonbashi area that was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Tsukiji Fish Market opened for business on the site of the former foreigners’ settlement in 1935.
Although the 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 auctioned for thousands of dollars each. A tradition—which is likely to continue at the Toyosu Market tuna auction—was the New Year’s Day auction in which restaurateurs competed with each other to pay the most for the first tuna on January 1st. The first tuna at Tsukiji’s last January 1st auction was snapped up for ¥36.45m by Sushizanmai owner Kiyoshi Kimura.
Getting up at 2am 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 in the inner market (both of which have opened stores at Toyosu Market) to enjoy a sushi breakfast amidst the din of the market.
Here are a few photos to give you a feel of what Tsukiji once was.
Breakfast at Tsukiji
You can still grab breakfast at one of the local shops even though there’s no more tuna auction at Tsukiji. 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.
Finding a good tour guide for Tsukiji Market
While the outer market area of 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 local guide. There’s quite a lot of variety on offer—for example, you can join a sushi-making workshop as part of the experience.
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 get “the best” sushi in Tokyo (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.
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And finally, check out this YouTube video on Tsukiji, featuring our very own Cheapo Greg:
The information in this post, though we do our best to make sure it’s correct, is subject to change.
|Name:||Tsukiji Fish Market|
|Address:||5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan|
|Access:||Short walk from Tsukijishijo Station, Tsukiji Station and Higashi-Ginza Station|
|Business hours:||9:00-14:00, many shops closed Sundays and some Wednesdays|
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