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. The general fish and vegetable market closed on September 29. The general market at Toyosu opened to visitors on October 13, but the new tuna auction will only open to the public next year. Find out what to expect, and when, below.
Where exactly is Toyosu Fish Market?
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. It is housed in three snazzy, interconnected buildings—two for wholesale seafood and one for wholesale fruit and veg. The buildings are connected directly to the station, with an overhead passage that has a rain roof, making it good for all weather conditions. 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.
Admission to Toyosu Fish Market is free, and you can watch auctions from dedicated viewing platforms (more on that below). Meals can be had at the restaurants in the complex (many of them will be direct transplants from Tsukiji). Though there isn’t much to do around the new fish market, you can easily 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 can I expect at the new Tokyo fish market?
Expect the experience at Toyosu to be different from the lively, messy but also charming and authentic Tsukiji. It has a very 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, expect 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. Tsukiji’s shrine will be moving too; it will be positioned at a corner of one of the buildings, facing the waterfront.
The Toyosu market officially opened to the general public on October 13, two days after its grand opening. The market’s regular opening hours are 5am-5pm. Note: Toyosu will be closed on Sundays and national holidays.
New Video: Top Shops for Cheap Souvenirs in Tokyo
Three varied spots for picking up unique and cheapo friendly souvenirs to take back home for friends and family.
The tuna auction at Toyosu
Note: The new tuna auction at Toyosu will only be open to the public from January 15, 2019 (estimated).
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 the shops, you enter another info 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. It is just 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 an 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 will also be crowded and—as it is open at the top—it will be rather chilly! The auction area is cooled down to almost zero degrees Celsius, so bring a jumper.
When to go
The tuna auction will still start from 4:30am and last about an hour, but it may finish early if few tuna are there to be sold. You do not need to sign up beforehand anymore; just be there on time and grab a good spot.
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 won’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 will be rushing up and down between the two buildings that are connected here. Again, the 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 will sell fish and other food products here. 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 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 alternatively Tsukiji’s outer market.
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 only two elevators in the building, so these will probably be really 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, on clear days in winter even of Mt Fuji, and you can sit on the grass. However, the roof has barely any signage, so don’t get lost! There is a big path down to the lower floors, that leads you back into the building and another area with information on the seasonal fish sold at the market, forklifts on display and more windows looking down on the sales area.
Once you are done with the roof, you can head to the fruit and veg building, but honestly, it isn’t that exciting. It is all connected by overhead passage, so you can walk over in any weather. The highlight of this area is probably the two sushi shops below the passage, just under the entrance to the building. They are rather high-end, including Daiwa Sushi. Inside, the 12 rows of windows from which to gaze over the action happening on the lower floor are named after 12 seasonal fruit and vegetables. There is also a huge storage fridge with an auto-retrieval system, of which you can observe the inner workings. However, the sales of fruit and veg wrap up by 8am, so come early if you want to see anything.
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 some people might prefer to the comparative chaos of the old Tsukiji.
Relocating from Tsukiji to the Toyosu Fish Market costs a lot of clams
(Clams, fish market … get it? You got it.)
The estimated cost of transplanting the wholesale market from Tsukiji to Toyosu is upwards of 600 billion yen (approx. 5.42 billion USD). This includes 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.
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. And you might also be interested in exploring a few awesome Tsukiji alternatives.
The information in this post, though we do our best to ensure it is correct, is subject to change.
Watch this next
New Video: Matcha Cafes: The Best Green Tea in Tokyo
Where to find Japanese matcha tea, matcha desserts and traditional Japanese green tea houses in Tokyo.
Popular Posts From Tokyo Cheapo
Recommended hotels located nearby
Ariake, from ¥18,500
Ginza, from ¥11,911
Kayabacho, Nihonbashi, from ¥7,800
Ginza, Tsukiji, from US$85.00