Tsukiji Fish Market (Tsukiji Shijo) is one of Tokyo’s top attractions – and with good reason.
It’s one of the most exciting markets in the world, whether you arrive early in the morning for the tuna auctions, or later in the morning for a look around and a sushi breakfast.
Since we get more questions about Tsukiji than almost any other place in Tokyo, we’ve put together an easy guide to visiting Tsukiji Market (number one may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked)!
Our Updated Guide to Visiting Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market
1. Make Sure Tsukiji is Right for You
Tsukiji Market – the world’s largest fish market – is an amazing place if you’re a foodie, love markets, are a photographer – or simply enjoy visiting unique places.
But if you’re squeamish, don’t like seafood, or are not particularly fond of markets, you might want to consider skipping Tsukiji (and the article and images below).
2. Visit Before the Market Moves in 2016
Tsukiji Fish Market won’t be here for long.
The wholesale market is slated to move to the nearby Toyosu district in the near future – well before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – which means you don’t have much time left to visit.
The new market will surely be a modern marvel, but nothing can replace the character and history of Tsukiji.
For a taste of Tsukiji’s many fascinating stories, check out the Asahi Shimbun’s series, Tsukiji: Kitchen of the Times.
3. Check The Market Calendar Before You Visit
Tsukiji Market is not open every day, so make sure to confirm it will be open when you want to visit.
In addition to holidays and Sundays, it’s usually (though not always) closed on Wednesdays.
Even though it’s in Japanese, it’s easy to read: simply avoid the days with a red dot, which mean it’s closed:
4. Getting to Tsukiji: Transportation Options
Tsukiji Market is located in central Tokyo’s Tsukiji district, not far from the upscale Ginza neighborhood.
Depending on where you’re traveling from, the best option to get here may be to walk, take the subway or take a taxi.
If you’re traveling by subway, the closest station is Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Toei Oedo subway line, and second closest is Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya subway line (a few minutes’ walk).
Note: If you’re planning on seeing the early-morning tuna auctions, you’ll need to take a taxi or walk as subways don’t start running until later in the morning.
5. To See or Not to See the Tuna Auctions
Speaking of tuna auctions, as one of our viewers – Claire from New York City – asked us, “Is it really worth waking up at 3 AM to see the tuna auctions?”
The answer is not clear cut, but if you don’t mind waking up around 3:00 am then you may want to at least consider going.
However, it is very important to note that you do NOT need to see the tuna auctions to enjoy Tsukiji Market. In fact, most people who visit Tsukiji come later in the morning, around 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 AM.
If you’re thinking of going for the tuna auctions, first make sure they will be open. During busy seasons (for example, the end of the year) they are not open to the public. Check this metropolitan government page for alerts.
If after seeing fairly graphic photos or videos (like the one below) you decide you do want to try and see the auctions, you will need to wake up very early! On auction days space is limited to a maximum of 120 people (divided into two groups of 60 each).
Registration is free, but it cannot be done in advance and begins promptly at 5:00 am. People begin to line up earlier, so to try and guarantee entrance you’ll need to arrive as early as possible.
Registration takes place on the 1st floor of the aptly-named Fish Information Center (Osakana Fukyu Center), located by the market’s Kachidoki Bridge entrance (Kachidoki Hashi), off Harumi Dori street (see the point marked on this map):
6. Be Respectful: Follow The Rules
Remember that Tsukiji is not designed to be a tourist attraction, so be respectful of the people working and shopping here.
Photos are generally allowed, but use discretion and turn off your flash, which can be distracting and dangerous to fishmongers wielding knives.
Don’t enter the inner wholesale market until it officially opens to visitors at 10:00 am (formerly 9:00 am, prior to July 1st when regulations changed). If you arrive earlier you can spend as much time as you like exploring the fascinating outer market, which is full of shops and little restaurants.
The shops sell everything from knives to Japanese staples, with small restaurants offering delights ranging from sushi to ramen.
If you’re looking for a sushi breakfast, check out our friend and Tsukiji connoisseur Yukari Sakamoto’s recommended top sushi shops at Tsukiji Market.
7. Pack Light, Bring Cash & Stay Out of the Way
Despite its huge scale and incredible busyness, Tsukiji is a model of efficiency. But it is a very fast-paced market and, as a visitor, it is up to you to get out of the way.
It’s easy to get distracted with so many amazing things to see, but if you don’t stay alert, you might get run over.
Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes – such as sneakers or boots – that can get wet.
A small bag, backpack or purse may be fine, but definitely avoid bringing large backpacks, suitcases, or other unwieldy items.
If arriving early for the tuna auctions, make sure to dress warmly as you may be waiting for a while.
If you can’t move nimbly through Tsukiji’s crowded narrow lanes, you’ll be in the way, inconvenience others, and won’t have as much fun.
If you’re a home cook, Tsukiji’s outer market is a fantastic place to buy top-quality Japanese knives and stock up on Japanese ingredients for your pantry.
Make sure to bring cash as few shops accept credit cards (see our article on money in Japan).
Whether you’re interested in visiting Tsukiji for the early-morning tuna auctions – or a bit later to experience the hustle and bustle of daily market life – we hope this guide helps you get the most of your visit to Tokyo’s historic Tsukiji Fish Market!