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Your Guide to Visiting Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market

Read our guide to understanding Tokyo's Tsukiji Market so you can visit it before they close this winter.

Since its opening, the Tsukiji Market has provided some of the freshest sea catches in the world. Once just a simple wet market, Tsukiji quickly became a famous tourist attraction. But after 81 years, the buildings have aged and Tsukiji market is closing down. We’ll give you a brief rundown of one of Japan’s most well-loved spots.

Getting There

Take the Toei Subway Oedo Line to the Tsukijishijo Station , the Tsukiji Market can be spotted from the station.

 

Before going to the market, make sure to check if it’s open. It’s always closed on Sundays, public holidays, and certain Wednesdays. You can check its official website to plan your trip. If you aren’t attending the Tuna Auction, the inner market opens to the market at 9am.

Be sure to wear something warm. Over time, the market’s heating has worn out and temperatures have to kept very low to keep the fish fresh. Winter time can be especially frigid. Apart from extra layers, wear closed and flat shoes since flip-flops and high heels are not allowed.

The Stalls and Shops

Tsukiji Market has two main parts: the outer market, which houses the small shops and retail stores and the inner market which holds the famous Tuna Auction, and every kind of fish imaginable—including whale meat!

Tokyo_Tsukiji Market 1
Photo credit: tjabeljan via Visualhunt / CC BY

Pro tip: Guards will tell you the inner market is closed off to the public before 9:00am, but that isn’t completely true; only passive visitors who won’t buy anything are disallowed. Simply tell the guards “kaimono” (shopping), and look for fish you think you can eat without cooking, such as sea urchin or salmon roe.

The Tuna Auction

The fishermen usually begin catching fish at 11:00pm the night before. Afterwards, they organize their catch by weight, type, and freshness, and ready them for the auction which opens as early as 4:00am.

Photo credit: Anna & Michal via Visual Hunt / CC BY

The Tuna Auction is particularly fascinating—a lively display of organized chaos, with stalls of sellers and vendors haggling the price of the freshest catch. Up to 120 foreigners are allowed to participate, but the tour slots quickly run out; tourists are advised to come as early as 2:30am! The first 60 tourists participate in the auction from 5:25 to 5:45am, while the next batch participates from 5:50am to 6:10am.

Be mindful of the market’s rules: the vendors are there to make a profit, not to put on a show, so they won’t hesitate to kick you out if you interfere with business. Flash photography is also not allowed.

Photo credit: wuestenigel via Visual hunt / CC BY

Sushi for Breakfast

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You won’t find fresher sushi anywhere else. The most sought-after sushi is sold at Uogashi Yokocha (snaking queues at Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi!), but you can satisfy your post-auction cravings literally anywhere. Browse through the many stalls in the outer market for your fill of grilled fish, meat on skewers, fresh oysters, and uni (sea urchin) straight from the shell.

Tokyo Heritage

Photo credit: istolethetv via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Tsukiji market has played a big role in the Japanese culture. Nicknamed “Tokyo’s Stomach” by the locals, the stalls are all catered to the the typical Tokyo diet. Tsukiji is more that just simple cash transactions—it’s become a showcase of Japanese social and cultural customs to the international crowd. It has earned both a place in traditional Japanese food culture, as well as the global marketplace.

End of an Era: Tsukiji Market Relocation Program

The market migration has been a controversial topic. Come Winter 2017, “Tsukiji fish riparian” will open with about 60 shops and 400 off-site farm shops.

Photo credit: macabrephotographer via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

Right now, it’s unsure how the relocation will go, as the plan has been faced with several controversies. Many believe that the only way to preserve the culture and character of the Tsukiji Market is to imagine what the original Nihonbashi Group would establish the food culture and traditions of the future. Visit Tsukiji Market before it relocates to witness its authentic character!

Enjoy reading about the Tsukiji Market? There are other places to visit that are equally as exciting! Read on to find out more!
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