You’ve probably heard that the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market has closed to the public to reopen as the Toyosu Fish Market. Here are the top tidbits regarding the relocation of this historic landmark in Tokyo.
When one market closes, another opens only slightly farther east …
… you know that old saying.
First, the Tsukiji Fish Market was slated to close its doors in November, 2016. Then the move got pushed back. And back. And back some more. But the relocation has happened at last, with the inner market officially re-opening at the Toyosu waterfront district on October 11, 2018. Over 600 merchants made the move. Note: Tsukiji’s outer market, which features numerous shops and restaurants, is staying put and some great tours are still available.
With a Fall 2018 opening of the new Tokyo fish market venue, time has officially run out for those who had hoped to see the live tuna auction in its original state at Tsukiji. The Tsukiji tuna auction closed to the public on September 15, 2018. The general fish and vegetable market closed on September 29. The general market at Toyosu opened to visitors on October 13, 2018 and the new tuna auction will fully open to the public in mid-January, 2019. Find out what to expect, and when, below.
Where is Toyosu Fish Market, and how do I get there?
The new Toyosu Fish Market is near Shijomae Station, on the Yurikamome Line, in Tokyo’s Koto Ward—about 2km east of Tsukiji’s current location.
The market is housed in three snazzy, interconnected buildings—two for wholesale seafood and one for wholesale fruit and veg. The buildings are connected directly to Shijomae Station via an overhead roofed passage, making it good for all weather conditions.
Fun fact: Toyosu is almost twice the size of Tsukiji, at 40.7ha vs. 23.1ha, more than allowing the market to retain its status as the biggest fish market in the world.
How much is it to get into Toyosu?
Admission to Toyosu Fish Market is free, and you can watch auctions from dedicated viewing platforms (more on that below). You’ll need to pick up a visitor’s pass when you enter the buildings, though. You can splurge on meals at the restaurants in the complex (many of them direct transplants from Tsukiji).
What can I expect at the new Tokyo fish market?
The experience at Toyosu is very different from the lively, messy but also charming and authentic Tsukiji. It has a sterile atmosphere—and only certain clearly-marked areas are accessible to visitors. The times of tourists touching the price tags of tuna are over—your experience is all behind glass windows now.
In total, you can expect about 40 food stalls in the wholesale fish buildings, with a small number in the building where the tuna auction is housed and the majority above the market. These are the same shops that surrounded Tsukiji, but some could not move over and have sadly closed down.
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Tsukiji’s old shrine stayed put, but a new shrine called Uogashi Suijinja, roughly translated as “shrine for a fish market on the shore”, has been erected at a corner of one of the Toyosu buildings, facing the waterfront.
The whole Toyosu experience is, in general, well designed for visitors: direct access from the station and a lot of info boards, signs and maps everywhere. All the areas that are marked yellow on the map (and on the ground) can be entered (hint: there aren’t a lot and you’ll feel very much on the fringes). It is nice, clean and organized, which we guess some people might prefer to the comparative chaos of the old Tsukiji.
How much time do I need to see Toyosu Fish Market?
We recommend allowing two hours for the full experience—this includes the tuna auction area, general fish market and fruit and veg section. Wear comfy shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
The Toyosu market officially opened to the general public on October 13, 2018 two days after its grand opening. The market’s regular opening hours are 5am-5pm, though many shops and the information center only open at 7am. Toyosu is closed on Sundays and national holidays.
The tuna auction at Toyosu
Note: The new tuna auction at Toyosu will be fully open to the public from January 15, 2019. You can book a private tour, if you’d like the experience to be guided.
Where is it held?
Walking from the station, you can directly enter the fish wholesale building and your first stop is an information area that tells you about the market in English and Japanese, through posters. After an area with shops, you enter another information room that showcases a model of the largest bluefin tuna ever sold at Tsukiji, weighing almost 500kg. Unfortunately, that was in 1986 and today that would be very unlikely due to their extremely fragile status!
From this room, a gantry leads to the new tuna auction area. You’ll find yourself in a gantry/gallery one floor above the action—and all behind glass. The board that explains the buyers’ hand signs for the auction is interesting and helpful though.
Fun fact: The tuna auction area has green floors, while all other areas have white floors. Why? Buyers determine the quality and therefore price of the fish by checking its red meat. Red stands out best against a green backdrop.
Beyond the gallery, there is a special observation deck on a lower floor. This will offer the most intimate experience possible, as the glass does not extend to the ceiling, so you can hear the auction going on. But it might also get crowded and—as it is open at the top—it may be rather chilly! The auction area is cooled down to almost zero degrees Celsius, so bring a jumper. This deck opens to the public from January 15, 2019.
How to watch the tuna auction
The tuna auction takes place from about 5:30am to 6:30am. If you’re happy watching from the upper-floor observation windows, you do not need to sign up beforehand; just be there as early as possible and try to grab a good spot. However, this is the B-grade option for viewing the tuna auction, and you might leave having seen nothing but a bunch of people’s heads. Don’t expect to hear much, either.
Access to the observation deck
From January 15, 2019, the Toyosu tuna auction can be viewed from the observation deck on the lower floor. Access to this deck is by application only, with applications open for about seven days each month, for a spot the following month. Application dates are as follows:
To watch the tuna auction in February: Submit your form between January 7-14
To watch the tuna auction in March: Submit your form between February 4-11
Application dates for viewing the tuna auction in April and beyond will be announced in early March.
To apply, click on the official page and scroll down to the bottom for the English option. More information about the tuna auction viewing process can be found on the Toyosu Fish Market website, but note that it’s in Japanese.
Note: Submitting an application to see the tuna auction does not guarantee you a place on the lower-floor observation deck; it works on a lottery system, with the results communicated a few days after the submission period has ended. If you are lucky enough to get a place, you’ll be assigned a 10-minute slot between 5:45am and 6:15am to see the auction action with a group of other people. A maximum of 120 people will be given access to the deck each day. Be sure to bring along some ID; it’s necessary to access the deck.
Even if you can’t see the tuna auction when you visit the market, you should be able to watch the just-sold tuna being hoisted away on forklifts and turret trucks, which is arguably the most interesting sight to behold at Toyosu. This usually wraps up around 7am.
If you aren’t set on the auction and just want to see some market activity, you don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn; you just need to be there before 8am. If you simply want to eat some sushi, you can go anytime—and skip the tuna/wholesale fish market area.
Can I see boats coming in at Toyosu?
Anyone hoping to see ships unload their fresh catch in the early morning hours at Toyosu will be sorely disappointed: 99% of the catch is landed elsewhere in Japan (like Yaesu, Choshi and Kesennuma) and brought here by trucks. When we went for a preview of the market, we were impressed by the modern truck docks with air curtains that stop dust, insects or heat from entering the market building when unloading. But tourists don’t have access to this area.
Can I buy seafood directly?
For the seafood, the journey continues along a four-lane mini road, where forklifts rush up and down between the two buildings that are connected here. Again, visitors have their own area and path separated from the action. From the roadside, you can get a glimpse into the processed fish wholesale building: 530 shops sell fish and other food products here.
Note: This area has, to our surprise, also not been opened to visitors yet. Currently, you have to leave the wholesale building by the same way you entered, return your visitor’s pass, and then take the outside walkway over to the intermediate seafood wholesale building (here, all of the other seafood products are sold, as well as the tuna, albeit cut up into chunks) and pick up a new visitor’s pass. There are signs all along the walkway to guide you.
From the intermediate wholesale building, you have a very limited view of some of the shop passages from large windows. But you can see turret trucks on display (photo opportunity!) and find some cool information on the seasonal fish of Toyosu/Tsukiji.
The shop stalls at Toyosu are ultra modern and very cookie-cutter. While it is super-hygienic and efficient, it also takes away some of Tsukiji’s old charm. There is no entry for general tourists, and no, not after 10 or 11am or anytime either.
No more buying directly as a visitor. You can only buy seafood in the form of a meal at one of the restaurants at Toyosu, or on the 4F of the intermediate seafood wholesale building, which hosts a number of shops selling produce, sushi knives and other wares—but no actual fresh fish. Alternatively, you can head to Tsukiji’s outer market for seafood.
Shops and restaurants at Toyosu
On the fourth floor, you’ll find over a hundred shops and eateries. Their offerings range from sake and cheese to knives sharpened before your eyes, kitchen utensils, fruit, veg and bento boxes. Souvenir suggestions are the fresh wasabi roots on offer, maybe as a set with a wasabi grater, or the ceramics at Ueda. They are extremely reasonably priced for the quality of design and material that is on offer at this store. Check it out in the North Aisle.
Once you are done shopping, you can head back out and take a look at Toyosu’s main restaurant area, which is housed in the same building but has a separate entrance on the overpass level. Besides sushi shops, there is also a café, a tonkatsu joint and a curry shop to choose from. Note that the restaurants in this area are the most crowded and have the longest queues, so consider the options in the other two buildings.
What else is there to see at Toyosu Fish Market?
Once you are done with the main attraction, the two fish market buildings, you have two options: go up to the 5F roof or go see the fruit and veg market.
The rooftop can be accessed from elevators inside and outside the building, but these can get crowded. If possible, look for the staircase, which is a bit harder to find. The roof is pretty minimalistic in design, but it has grass and non-flowering bushes (so as not to attract any insects). There is no shade, but it offers a great view of Tokyo Bay and, on clear days in winter, of Mt Fuji. Note that you can sit on the grass, but food and drink is not allowed on the roof. Also, there is barely any signage, so don’t get lost! There is a big path down to the lower floors, which leads you back to the windows overlooking the sales area.
Toyosu fruit and vegetable market
If you haven’t had enough yet, you can also go and check out the fruit and veg wholesale area—just follow the English signs. A word of warning though: this isn’t the most exciting place, unless you love the sight of piles and piles of Styrofoam boxes. You will be walking along a windowed gallery that looks down unto the market activity below.
The best thing about this part of Toyosu is probably the handful of restaurants tucked away one level under the entrance. Take the stairs down as you exit the building and choose between udon, tempura and arguably the best sushi at the market—Daiwa Sushi.
This sushi joint has no written menu, so it is best to go with their omakase (recommended) set.
The quality is excellent and they give you the option to replace any sushi you might not want to eat because you dislike it or because you have environmental concerns (think eel and bluefin tuna, which are both endangered). They speak a bit of English and some Chinese and are very accommodating to foreign visitors. It is worth the price tag of between ¥4,000–¥4,500 for a full set including soup.
What is there to do near Toyosu Fish Market?
Though there isn’t much to do around the new fish market, you can combine a visit with a trip to nearby Odaiba. Word is the complex will be expanded to include more tourist-oriented stuff in the future, like a hotel and hot spring. And in 2022, a shopping street called Senkyaku Banrai is due to open across the road, as a project to make the area more lively and “give back” to the community.
What will happen to the old Tsukiji Fish Market?
The inner part of Tsukiji Fish Market closed for a few reasons: its facilities were old (it opened in 1935), and the layout inefficient. The government says this is hurting the market’s “image”, in addition to causing health and food safety concerns. Tsukiji attracted more than 40,000 visitors daily, so the latter concerns kind of make sense. The soaring temperatures of this summer highlighted the challenges, with the aircon units at Tsukiji unable to beat the heat.
But another big reason (and perhaps the main reason) for the move is that Tsukiji Market is currently sitting on prime real estate. There’s been all sorts of talk about having the site operate as a temporary bus terminal during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and then be redeveloped into a sports stadium and retail shops. There’ve also been rumblings about relocating the famous fish market back to Tsukiji by 2025, with an added food theme park. The state-of-the-art Toyosu facility would then become a distribution center. Keep in mind, though, that no redevelopment plans have been 100% confirmed yet. We’ll update you when we know more.
Note that the Tsukiji outer market, a collection of over 500 shops and eateries selling everything from fresh seafood to cooking equipment, adjacent to the inner market area, is not going anywhere. You can—and should—still visit it, ideally as part of a combined Toyosu and Tsukiji tour. You might also be interested in exploring a few awesome Tsukiji alternatives.
How do I get from Toyosu Fish Market to Tsukiji?
The best idea is to check out the action at the new Toyosu Market first, in the early morning hours, and then head over to the old Tsukiji Outer Market and its messy charm—it offers more options than Toyosu for sushi (or other food) and shopping. You could walk from Toyosu to Tsukiji on a fine day; it’s about 3km and will lead you over three bridges, keeping a fairly straight line. Budget around 30 minutes for it.
However, the most convenient way of getting between Toyosu and Tsukiji is to board the Yurikamome Line at Shijomae Station for Toyosu (two stops) and then change to the Yurakucho Line for Shintomicho Station (another two stops), which is just a little further to walk from the Outer Market than Tsukiji Station, but offers a much quicker connection. The trip takes around 15 minutes and from Shintomicho it is a 750m/8-minute walk to the Outer Market. Or you could take a cab for around ¥1,500.
Relocating from Tsukiji to the Toyosu Fish Market cost a lot of clams
(Clams, fish market … get it? You got it.)
The estimated cost of transplanting the wholesale market from Tsukiji to Toyosu was upwards of 600 billion yen (approx. 5.42 billion USD). This included construction, infrastructure (including a new expressway), land costs, and soil decontamination measures.
Wait, go back—what’s that about soil contamination?
The Toyosu site was formerly home to a gas production plant, and an early survey conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed that the soil was, unfortunately, heavily contaminated. Extensive clean-up efforts seem to have sorted it out, but there was initially concern—especially from business operators—about food safety at the relocation site, and over 70% of Tsukiji wholesalers originally opposed the move.
The information in this post, though we do our best to ensure it is correct, is subject to change.
This post was first published in April, 2016. Last updated on January 7, 2019.
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