Tsukiji Fish Market: A Guide for Visitors

Greg Lane

The Tsukiji Fish Market has appeared in literally every guidebook about Tokyo and is (still) high on most visitors’ Tokyo bucket list. It wasn’t just the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo and Japan; Tsukiji for many years held the title for the entire planet. It also had a super-famous tuna auction that was held before the sun rose most mornings. While the tuna auction and wholesale market at Tsukiji is now closed due to its move to the shiny new Toyosu Market, there is still a bustling outer market area to explore that has no plans to move elsewhere.

Find out what you can see and do at Tsukiji, below.

Jump to:

Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Stewart Butterfield used under CC

Is Tsukiji still worth visiting?

If you have an interest in sushi, seafood or cooking, the Tsukiji Outer Market should still be on your Tokyo itinerary. The approximately 150 meter by 250 meter (500 ft by 820 ft) area of narrow alleys and ramshackle shops retains a sample of the now-inaccessible Inner Market (that was the most famous bit of Tsukiji). While the sheer chaos of the Inner Market is a thing of the past, just a single corner of the Outer Market at Tsukiji still has more character than the sterile, ultra-modern Toyosu Fish Market. Over 300 shops and restaurants have stayed put in Tsukiji’s Outer Market and continue to serve customers.

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 the Tsukiji Outer Market?

Much of the old Tsukiji market was for wholesalers only, with many areas restricted or off limits to the public. But as the market was so popular with visitors for its lively atmosphere and fresh produce, the so-called Outer Market developed. After products had changed hands from producers and sellers to wholesale buyers in the Inner Market, they were then sold on to restaurants and shops at the Outer Market, where the general public had access to them.

The Outer Market still 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 pleasure. The Outer Market shops have long-established relationships with the Tsukiji Inner 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’s Outer Market. The sellers display their goods, as fresh as ever, in the same old location of the Outer Market, simply bringing them over from the new market.

tsukiji outer market fish on display
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Pro tip: You can visit the new Toyosu Fish Market and the historic Tsukiji Market on the same day. See how in our Toyosu Market guide (simply scroll to the end).

Eating at Tsukiji Market

You can still grab breakfast at one of the local shops in the Outer Market, even though there’s no more tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. 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.

Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Greg 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 super fresh and tasty. There are plenty of choices in the Outer Market. You might 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.

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 bento 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.

Pro tip: After your meal, you could stop by Namiyoke Inari Shrine, meaning “protection from waves”. It is the guardian shrine of Tsukiji, and traders come here to pray for good business.

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.

Brief history of Tsukiji Fish Market

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 Tsukiji 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. A tradition—which is likely to go on at the Toyosu Market tuna auction—was the special 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 a cool ¥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 Tsukiji Inner Market (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.

Here are a few photos to give you a feel of what Tsukiji Fish Market once was—in its heyday.

Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Greg Lane
Tsukiji fish market
Photo by civ33 used under CC
Tsukiji fish market
Photo by Alessandro Capurso used under CC

Bonus: 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. Post originally published on July 30, 2013. Last update: June 21, 2019. Thanks to Mareike Dornhege for her assistance with the update.

Written by:
Filed under: Things to do
Tags: Breakfast, Culture, Featured-ginza, Featured-tsukiji, Fish, Fish Market, History, Japanese Tradition, Sashimi, Sushi, Tourist, Toyosu Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tuna, Tuna Auction
Tokyo Cheapo small logo
Name: Tsukiji Fish Market
Pricing info: Free
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Location(s): Tsukiji,
Access: Short walk from Tsukijishijo Station, Tsukiji Station and Higashi-Ginza Station
Web: http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/english/
Business hours: 9:00-14:00, many shops closed Sundays and some Wednesdays
Places Mentioned

Watch this next
New Video: Last Chance to Visit Japan's Most Unusual Arcade

The dystopian amusement arcade Anata no Warehouse near Tokyo will close its doors forever on November 17, 2019.

Get our Tokyo Cheapo Hacks direct to your inbox

Recommended hotels located nearby

66 Responses to “Tsukiji Fish Market: A Guide for Visitors”

  1. Avatar

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

  2. Avatar
    Kensei July 31, 2013

    “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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg August 1, 2013

      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.

      • Avatar

        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. Avatar
    Scuttle August 8, 2013

    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.

    • Avatar

      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. Avatar

    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. Avatar
    Yvonne May 22, 2014

    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?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg May 26, 2014

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

  6. Avatar
    MagentaSwallow June 9, 2014

    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!

    • Avatar

      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.

      • Avatar
        MagentaSwallow June 10, 2014

        Hi Grace,

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

  7. Avatar

    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!

    • Avatar

      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…

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg July 4, 2014

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

  8. Avatar

    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:

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



    • Avatar
      Kai Adarna October 6, 2014

      shut up you idiot. just don’t go.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 6, 2014

      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. Avatar

    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 😀

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 6, 2014

      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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 28, 2014

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

  10. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 23, 2014

      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.

      • Avatar

        Thanks for the reply…

        • Avatar
          CheapoGreg November 28, 2014

          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. Avatar

    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 🙂

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 28, 2014

      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. Avatar

    #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. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 22, 2014

      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!

      • Avatar

        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. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 28, 2014

      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.

      • Avatar

        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!

        • Avatar
          CheapoGreg January 5, 2016

          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. Avatar

    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).

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 26, 2015

      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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 24, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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..

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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. Avatar
    Ciprian Valceanu July 8, 2015

    Why did I end up paying JPY3780 for breakfast?

  22. Avatar
    ZuKa Conde July 29, 2015

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

  23. Avatar
    ShowupAt3 September 9, 2015

    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

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 9, 2015

      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. Avatar
    killerblueskies September 22, 2015

    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.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 30, 2015

      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. Avatar

    hi there,

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

    many thanks

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 1, 2015

      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. Avatar

    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.


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 25, 2015

      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. Avatar
    Jeemee Goh October 27, 2015

    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?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 17, 2015

      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.

      • Avatar
        Jeemee Goh November 18, 2015

        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!


  28. Avatar
    Ellard May 2, 2016

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

Questions or comments about this article? Start a thread on our community forum