If there’s one must-visit destination inked into every guidebook on Tokyo, it’s Tsukiji Market, the massive wholesale fish market home to the famous early-morning tuna auction and some of the city’s best seafood. Although it may be a tourist cliché, you’ll never regret visiting it at least once, the food is great, the people-watching is excellent, and best of all it’s free. However, if you fancy yourself as an adventurous traveler, partial to bucking the trends and hungry for a different side of Tokyo, there are excellent Tsukiji alternatives. From old-world shopping strips to more niche seafood sellers, here are other Tokyo fish markets and street markets to visit.
Top Tsukiji alternative: Ota Wholesale Market
Positioned in Kawasaki, about a 30-minute ride from JR Shinagawa Station, this criminally underrated market is said to be 100,000 square meters bigger than Tsukiji. It sells fish, vegetables and picture-perfect fruit, and—arguably its most attractive quality—houses a large section dedicated to flowers.
It’s strange that this place isn’t a bigger tourist magnet. The Ota Wholesale Market features a special course just for visitors, complete with a balcony that looks out onto all the action happening on the warehouse floor. Each day the market hosts a number of auctions, with the fish auctions typically leading the pack around 5am, followed by vegetables, fruit and then flowers around 7am.
Try these other things to do in Ota while you’re there.
The second largest seafood-centric market after the almighty Tsukiji is Adachi Market, a reputable hub of wholesalers and restaurants. If you take your sashimi seriously, then this should be atop your itinerary, as it’s the only Tokyo market to deal exclusively in seafood and marine produce.
A little further out of the city center, the market sits between the Arakawa River and Sumida River, about 20 minutes north of Ueno Station on the Keisei Line or Hibiya Metro Line. Because it’s a little lest tourist-trodden than its more famous contemporary, here you’ll find restaurant prices are often quite a bit cheaper, which scores it a few extra points.
Important: The Adachi Market itself is only open to the public from 9am-11am one Saturday every couple of months. Upcoming dates are:
- September 8, 2018
- November 10, 2018
- January 19, 2019
However, you can enjoy a meal at the seafood restaurants around Adachi Market any time.
This Tsukiji alternative isn’t a fish market, but it’s still a worthy alternative, especially if you’re not really the early morning type. Running between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations, Ameyoko Market is a swarming street filled with food stands, clothing outlets, restaurants, sweet stalls, izakayas, and swaying salarymen swilling mugs of frosty Asahi after hours.
The hangout has a fascinating history: post World War II, the area was home to black market imported American goods and candy. Since the 1940s, the market has branched out and now sells a huge selection of goods, both the everyday (t-shirts, bags, fruits) to the slightly more international and eclectic (Chinese herbs and pickled snakes, if you fancy). Arguably though, this place is best for eating, housing a broad variety of indoor and street-style restaurants slinging dishes at very competitive prices.
If you want to avoid feeling like a human pinball bumping shoulder to shoulder with what feels like the entire population of Tokyo, make your way there during lunch. Or even better, visit after 8pm, post the rush and in time for dinner, when the sun goes down and free-flowing booze fuels some pretty interesting people-watching opportunities.
Market of the Sun
Although the name sounds like the title of an acoustic surf-pop song, Market of the Sun is a hip, regular urban farmers market that typically runs on the second Saturday and Sunday of the month at Tsukishima Second Children’s Park. Here you’ll find around 80-100 stalls run by dedicated vendors from across the country. From organic fruits and vegetables to vegetarian curry rice dishes, specialty jam and artisanal coffee, if it’s fresh and from the farm—you can expect it here.
A more relaxed affair than some of Tokyo’s other market events, Market of the Sun is on from around 10am until 5pm, meaning that you can have a sleep in and still have plenty of time to enjoy everything on offer. Just don’t expect much (if anything) in the way of fish at this one.
More shopping strip than market per se, Yanaka Ginza is a must-visit for those wanting to experience a more authentic, old-world version of Tokyo. A picturesque, feline-obsessed pocket of old style, ramshackle food stalls, family-run restaurants and countless kitty-related souvenirs, you’ll find it in Taito Ward, just a minute or two from Nippori Station and an easy walk from Ueno Park.
If you’re strictly on the hunt for seafood, then this may not be the number-one choice of Tsukiji alternatives, but if it’s street food, sweets and knicknacks you’re chasing, you’ve hit the jackpot. A hot tip is to be sure to visit Himitsu-do—the famous local shaved ice stand that serves up 132 ‘secret’ seasonal toppings, which change daily.
See our guide to Tokyo markets for more ideas.
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