The Japan fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
This market featuring the famous “Tuna Auction” was formerly located in the Tsukiji neighbourhood in central Tokyo, but these days the inner market relocated to Koto City, and called the “Toyosu Market”. It’s said to be about 70% bigger than Tsukiji!
The outer market is still open at its old location in Tsukiji, more about that later.
One early, early morning in 2006 and again in 2008, together with a few people from my hostel, I decided it was a fun idea to go and visit the (then called) Tsukiji market to see what all the fuzz was about.
Please note: Below you can read my experiences from when the market was located in Tsukiji and that the market is now moved, so your experience will be different!
At the bottom of this review you can find updated links to plan your trip and I’ve added a bit about what you can expect at the new Toyoshu Market.
BIGGEST JAPAN FISH MARKET: DISCOVER THE WORLD OF TSUKIJI TOKYO
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET HOURS: TUNA AUCTION
There are a couple of different parts to the fish market, and they all have different rules:
Tuna Auction (Inner Market)
The most spectacular part, the daily tuna auction, is also the most restricted. The maximum number of visitors is 120 people per day and if you’d like to see it, you have to apply for a spot. Tickets used to be given out from 5AM on a first-come, first-serve base (they are free) and most people arrive well before this time, at 4AM or even 3AM. Of course now the inner market, including the tuna auction has moved, rules have changed. See below.
In two groups of 60 people, you will get special jackets and can see the auction between 5:25AM and 5:50AM (first group) or 5:50AM and 6:15AM.
The rest of the inner market, where the tuna auction is located, is off limits to visitors.
While I personally haven’t visited the tuna auction at Tsukiji when it was still possible, here are a few bloggers that did and wrote about their experience: Ever in Transit // Ott’s World // Travel Squire // Tokyo Cheapo // Reflections en Route
If you’re keen on reading more from other bloggers about Tsukiji (not including the tuna auction), then you can find them here: Cultural Xplorer // Leah Travels // Urban Travel Blog // Suitcase and Heels // Bohemian Trails // 2 Foodtrippers // Pack Me To
NEW TOYOSHU MARKET INFORMATION
Toyosu Market opened October 2018 on the man-made island of Toyosu in the Bay of Tokyo. The new location features three main buildings, two of which are for seafood and one for fruits and veggies.
There is a marked route for visitors that even includes observation windows looking into the auction and wholesale halls:
In the Fish Wholesale Market Building (the one with the green floor) you can find the tuna auctions between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning. There is also a restaurant here.
The best way to watch the tuna auction is via the Observation Deck in this building and you have to apply online for this. Application is by a lottery, so only three groups of 40 people can enter for a maximum for 10 minutes at a time.
You can find the link to apply at the bottom of this article! Keep in mind that placements happen ONE MONTH before the actual date, so be sure to apply in time. It’s free, so give it a try!
In the Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building (the one with the grey floor), you can all the shops of wholesale businesses selling seafood to licensed buyers. This area isn’t accessible to visitors, but on the top floor you can find a restaurant and observation windows. While you don’t need to book for these, be aware that the windows are thick, so you won’t hear or smell anything and taking photos is challenging with the reflection, but you can see all the tuna from the top, which seems pretty cool.
At the upstairs Uogashi Yokocho Market you can buy items such as kitchen knives, but also tea, pickles and other non-perishables. Don’t miss the Rooftop Garden with views over Tokyo’s waterfront.
At the Fruit and Vegetable Market Building you can again view from windows on the upper floor.
MY EXPERIENCE AT THE TSUKIJI WHOLESALE MARKET
From 10AM, visitors were allowed to visit the wholesale market. Here I saw hundreds of small stands in a big hall, where people were whizzing by on trolleys and moving, cutting, shouting and preparing the fish to sell.
It was really quite something to see, but you have be alert to not get into the way of the people working here (or you end up with a lemon in your mouth in a box of ice)
Here are some of the many, many photos I took of all the incredible sea creatures you can spot at this part of the market:
EXPLORING THE TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET
The outer market is located next to the (former) inner market and is aimed at selling to the public. There are plenty of small retail shops and restaurants where you can have the freshest sushi-breakfast you’ll ever have. I can’t remember which restaurant we went to, but honestly, being so fresh, all of the places are good to go!
The restaurants are open from 5AM, so if you arrive early and didn’t get into the tuna auction, you can comfort yourself with super fresh sushi! Yum!
So there you have it. While things have changed a bit, it’s still possible to attend the tuna auction and these days, there is no need to show up early with the chance of not getting in. Once applied, and you won a spot in the lottery, you’re guaranteed to get it! And if not, you can sleep in a visit the market a bit later if you’d like.
Would you visit the fish market in Tokyo if you had the chance? Let me know in the comments below!
Since things have changed a bit over at Tsukiji market, I added this fun video by Paolo (fromTOKYO on YouTube), so you can see what visiting Tsukiji Tokyo looks like these days:
PLAN YOUR TOYOSHU MARKET VISIT
You can get to Toyoshu market via the Yurikamome, an automated train connecting Shimbashi Station with Toyosu Station (JR Yamanote Line). From Tokyo Station, you take JR Yamanote Line one station to Yurakucho, then the Yurakucho Subway Line to Toyosu and then the Yurikamome to Shijo-mae Station.
Read more about getting tickets for the Tokyo Metro in our in-depth article >
Please Note: The markets are closed on Sundays, national holidays and some wednesdays. Admission is free.
PLAN YOUR TSUKIJI MARKET VISIT
Tsukiji’s old outer market remains open and you can still enjoy a lot of shops and restaurants here!
Recommended is to first visit Toyosu as early as you can, then head over to Tsukiji to have a bite to eat and browse the stalls. Walking is about 3 kilometers (around 30 minutes), so a nice way to spend the day!
Otherwise take the Yurikamome Line at Shijomae Station to Toyosu Station, then change to the Yurakucho Line for Shintomicho Station, a total of about 15 minutes.
Website = www.tsukiji.or.jp/english
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