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.
Because there is so much conflicting information about Tsukiji on the internet — and because we get so many questions about it from our travelers — we put together this simple guide to visiting Tsukiji Market.
1. Make Sure Tsukiji is Right for You
This may seem self-evident, but Tsukiji Market is definitely not for everyone.
Tsukiji, the world’s largest (and probably most orderly) fish market, is an amazing place if you love markets, are eager to learn about Japanese food, or simply enjoy visiting unique places.
On the other hand, if you are squeamish, don’t like seafood, or are not particularly fond of markets, you might want to consider skipping Tsukiji – not to mention the article (and images) below!
2. Visit Before Tsukiji Moves
Tsukiji Market won’t be around forever.
While its move has been repeatedly delayed, the wholesale inner market (jonai) is slated for relocation, in the relatively near future, to the nearby Toyosu district.
Though Tokyo is in need of a modern, updated market, nothing can replace the character and history of Tsukiji. For a taste of the market’s many fascinating stories, check out the Asahi Shimbun’s series, Tsukiji: Kitchen of the Times.
The good news for market lovers is that the outer retail market (jogai) — where you can find a colorful array of shops and stalls offering everything from sushi and ramen to dry good and Japanese knives — will most likely remain in its current location, thanks to overwhelming popular interest.
3. Check The Market Calendar Before You Visit
As with most markets around the world, Tsukiji Fish Market is not open every day — it’s typically closed on Sundays, holidays, and most Wednesdays — so make sure to check its calendar before you visit.
Despite being in Japanese, it’s fairly straightforward to check the official Tsukiji Market calendar (provided via Tsukiji’s English-language homepage).
Simply avoid the days marked in red.
4. Getting to Tsukiji Market: Transportation Options
Tsukiji Market is located in the heart of central Tokyo, near the upscale Ginza neighborhood, the lovely Hamarikyu Garden, and lively Shimbashi.
If you’re traveling by public transit, the closest station is the Toei Oedo line’s Tsukiji Shijo Station.
Also nearby, the second closest station is the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line’s Tsukiji Station.
Naturally, you can also walk or take a taxi, depending on your point of origin. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you are planning on seeing Tsukiji’s famous early-morning tuna auctions (more on the tuna auctions below), you will need to walk or take a taxi, as public transit does not operate until later in the morning.
5. To See or Not to See the Tuna Auctions
Speaking of the tuna auctions, as one of our viewers asked us, “Is it worth waking up at 3:00 am to see the tuna auctions?”
The answer is not clear cut, but if you don’t mind waking up very early (e.g., around 2:00 or 3:00 am) then you may want to at least consider going.
However, it’s important to note that you do not need to see the tuna auctions to experience Tsukiji, and most people who visit the market tend to do so later in the morning.
If you’re thinking of trying to see the tuna auctions, you’ll first need to make sure they will be taking place – and open to the public. For example, during busy times of year — such as around New Year’s — they are typically not open to the public. Consult Tsukiji’s English-language page, and this Tokyo Metropolitan Government homepage for alerts and information.
If your timing works, and you decide to brave the early morning, you will need to wake up extremely early (or stay up very late)!
On auction days, space is limited to a maximum of 120 people, divided into two groups of 60 each. Registration — which is free, and begins promptly at 5:00 am — cannot be done in advance, and people begin to line up early.
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 Market Rules
Despite its appeal, remember that Tsukiji is not designed to be a tourist attraction, so be respectful of the people working and shopping here.
Particularly in the inner wholesale market, photography is generally prohibited, though some shops may not mind discreet photography. Flash is always a no-no, as it can be distracting and dangerous to fishmongers wielding knives.
Don’t enter the inner market until it officially opens to visitors at 10:00 am. If you arrive earlier you can spend as much time as you like exploring the fantastic outer market (more on the jogai above).
If you’re looking for a sushi breakfast, check out our friend and Tsukiji connoisseur Yukari Sakamoto’s recommended 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!