A Guide to Visiting Tsukiji Tuna Auction in Tokyo

We’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know if you’re planning a trip to watch the famous Tsukiji Tuna Auction.

Fish is big business in Japan, so it’s no surprise that Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest and most exciting wet markets in the world.

A buyer analysing the quality of the tuna at the Tsukiji tuna action.

Things to Consider Before Your Visit 

Tsukiji Market consists of an inner wholesale market and an outdoor market. The inner market is where the seafood is laid out for buying and selling, and also where the famous tuna auction take place.

It’s busy and bustling and all about business.

Tsukiji's wholesale fish market

Japanese fish monger preparing his fish to sell at the Tsukiji fish market.

Now this might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re a little squeamish and not a fan of seeing dead fish, then you may want to skip the indoor wholesale market.

The outer market is a lot more relaxed. The streets are full of vendors selling food related goods and there are plenty of restaurants that cater to the public. You can take your time strolling around the narrow alleys without feeling like you’re ‘in the way.’

Two ladies selling sushi and sashimi outside the Tsukiji fish market.

As it was our second trip to Tokyo, we knew that we’d regret it if we didn’t see the live Tsukiji tuna auction. We made the somewhat difficult decision to wake up in the middle of the night in a bid to try and get a place at the auction.

Click here to check the Tsukiji calendar and see whether the market will be open on the day you’re planning to visit.

What Time Do I Need To Arrive At Tsukiji Fish Market To See The Live Auction?

If you want to see the tuna auction we’d recommend arriving at the Tsukiji fish market between 03:30AM and 04:00AM to get your ‘visitor vest’ which is basically your ticket into the auction.

Travel Tip: Registration takes place on the 1st floor of the Fish Information Center in the Osakana Fukyu Center. Check the location on google maps prior to your visit so you don’t waste valuable time wandering around the market trying to find it.

120 people are allowed to watch the live auction each morning; this number is split into two groups of 60 people. We arrived at 03:40AM and the first group was already full, with the second group filling up by 04:00AM.

People in the waiting room before being lead out to the Tsukiji tuna action

In Spring and Autumn, queueing for the auction can start as early as 02:00AM

The first group watches the auction around 05:30AM and the second group at 06:15AM.

Until then, you’ve gotta sit on the floor and wait – so bring a book and a jacket in the Winter as it can get a little chilly inside the waiting room.

At around 04:30AM you’ll be joined by an auctioneer from Tsukiji who will give you an interesting insight into the way the market runs and can answer any questions you may have about the auction.

A Japanese auctioneer tells those waiting to see Tsukiji's tuna action all about the history and process of the action.

How to get to the Tsukiji Tuna Auction?

There will be no trains running at 03:00AM, so you’ll either need to catch a taxi or find somewhere to stay near Tsukiji.

A taxi from Shinjuku to the Tsukiji fish market will take 15 minutes and set you back around Y3,700, which isn’t too bad if you can split the cost with your friends.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for detailed directions on how to get to the market.

You Must Follow These Rules At The Market

Tsukiji fish market is a working market and early mornings are the busiest time for business so you need to be very aware of your surroundings.

Restaurant owners from across the city will be on the hunt for the freshest and highest quality tuna – it’s important that you don’t get in the way during your visit.

If you’re respectful and follow the rules below, you’ll have no problems.

  • Don’t wear high heeled shoes or open sandals
  • No smoking inside the market
  • Don’t touch anything
  • Don’t use flash photography (this is a biggie – apparently it can obstruct the auctioneers vision, leading to them missing bids)
  • Don’t bring any suitcases or large bags into the indoor market
  • Don’t bring any food and drink into the indoor market

What Happens During The Auction?

Once the wait is over, you’ll follow a security guard into the auction room where your group will be placed in a small viewing area.

The frozen tuna are laid out in size order for any potential buyers to examine prior to the auction.

A small section of flesh is cut from the tuna tail to determine the quality of the fish and what price should be paid.

A buyer analysing the quality of the tuna at the Tsukiji tuna action.

A bell rings to signal the start of the Tsukiji tuna auction, and within seconds the first tuna was sold!

The bidding war is fast and chaotic. I’ll admit, we didn’t really know what was going on – but it was fascinating to watch.

The sale of the fish is confirmed when the auctioneer raises their hand

A buyer carts off his tuna to be prepared for sale at the Tsukiji tuna action.

Seconds after the fish is sold, it’s carted off to the companies’ lot

Don’t Leave Without Eating Breakfast

No trip to Tsukiji Fish Market is complete without feasting on some fresh sushi and sashimi.

At 06:15AM once the Tsukiji tuna auction has finished we’d recommend heading straight to Nakaya 仲家, to try one of their famous sashimi rice bowls for breakfast.

We placed our order with the lady outside and within minutes we were chowing down on some of the freshest sashimi we’d ever eaten. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter what restaurant you choose; all of the food is going to be fresh and tasty.

Sashimi bowl breakfast of tuna and salmon, the perfect end to the Tsukiji tuna action.

This breakfast alone made the 03:00AM wake up call worth it for us!

Price: 1500-2000 Yen per bowl

How to get there: Just outside the main wholesale market and one street parallel to Sushi Dai – you can’t miss it.

Is It Worth It?

Now I know what you’re thinking – is the 03:00AM wake up call worth it?

For us, yes.

Being sushi lovers, it was a chance for us to understand a little more about how the Japanese buy and sell one of their most prized possessions, the blue-fin tuna.

If learning about how tuna is sold in Tokyo doesn’t interest you, then honestly – you’re probably going to find the 30 minute experience a little underwhelming.

Travel Tip: If you decide to hit the snooze button, keep in mind that the indoor market is open to the public from 10:00AM – 14:00PMish.

How to get there: From Tokyo Station, take the Marunouchi Line to Ginza and transfer to the Hibiya Line which will take you to Tsukiji Station.

Price: Free!

Have You Been To Tsukiji Fish Market?

Did you find this post useful? Pin it!

A Guide to Visiting the Tsukiji Tuna Action in Tokyo.

 

Share:

28 Comments

  1. 30th March 2017 / 7:30 pm

    This will be worth watching the auction, such huge fishes for auction never thought off.
    Had heard about Tuna fish but never had it. Watching this out seems to be very wonderful experience.

  2. 18th March 2017 / 9:40 pm

    This seems so interesting, and I actually think I saw this on the travel channel! I think I heard that Japan consumes 1/6th of the world’s fish, which is crazy! Makes me a bit concerned about the oceans though.. I’d still love to see this nonetheless, and one more reason to visit Tokyo!

  3. 7th March 2017 / 1:03 pm

    I REALLY want to go to this market. It’s at the top of my bucket list for Tokyo. I live in China so I want to go ASAP, but during my holidays tickets are always so expensive. Once my contract finishes up in August I’m going to do a big Japan trip, so I’ll be saving this for later!

  4. 7th March 2017 / 9:27 am

    My favourite city in the world! Although I highly dislike fish, I enjoyed this read. It made me want to be a seafood lover! Can you believe I did not eat sushi in Japan!? Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. 6th March 2017 / 1:43 pm

    The fish market looks wild! I can only imagine how chaotic the bidding wars would be for the fresh product. I am a bit squeamish so I doubt I would want to get there and see how the filet them and get them prepped for sale. I do love the look of Japan and would try to visit a market while there if I get an opportunity to travel there though.

  6. 6th March 2017 / 10:53 am

    Was it really worth it to get up that early and wait around to see the bidding? I think I’d be more interested in just heading to the restaurant and eating the goodness haha.

  7. 6th March 2017 / 7:43 am

    Wow I had no idea about the blue fin tuna auction! I am really allergic to fish, but this has me curious. I can’t believe it all starts so early in the morning, and the places fill up so fast! Glad you got to witness it whilst you were there!

  8. 5th March 2017 / 10:38 pm

    Interesting post. It’s always nice to get off the beaten track and experience everyday life. Great post.

    • 21st May 2017 / 6:25 pm

      Pecreft shot! Thanks for your post!

  9. 5th March 2017 / 9:40 pm

    Oh man! 3:30am? You guys must of been hungry for some fish. And what an enormous fish it is, I’ve never seen anything so big. By the way, how does sushi sound for breakfast? Not too fishy?

    • 21st May 2017 / 4:26 pm

      To the climate change deniers, here is a simple experiment you can try at home, that proves climate change. Go to your garage, make sure all the doors and windows are closed (simulating our atmsrpheoe), and turn your car engine on. Listen to Rush Limbaugh for a few minutes and then get back to me with the results.(BTW I’m being sarcastic, please don’t try the experiment, you will end up killing yourself. Which is exactly my point.)

  10. Megan Jerrard
    5th March 2017 / 9:23 pm

    I’m honestly not a big morning person, but I do make exceptions for amazing sunsets and exceptional cultural experiences! And this sounds like the latter. Fish being one of the biggest industries in Japan, I think it would be a shame to miss the tuna auction while in Tokyo – thanks for recounting your experience! Noted to take entertainment during the wait, and that if we do sleep through we can still catch the outdoor markets until 2 🙂

  11. 5th March 2017 / 6:36 pm

    That was interesting! I’m not sure I’d wake up at 3:00am to see the auction, but I do like visiting markets and it was interesting to read about how the Japanese buy and sell the tuna (they’re so huge!). The breakfast look great, I also love sushi!

  12. Julianna
    5th March 2017 / 6:22 pm

    What an amazing experience. I’m a big fan of going to markets but this auction looks fascinating. Thanks for the tips – I’d definitely go and this is a very useful guide.

  13. 5th March 2017 / 6:19 pm

    I loved this post! I’ve been quite intrigued with this market ever since I learned about it as I am also an avid sushi lover. I will visit Japan this year for the first time and I will definitely make sure to visit Tsujiki Market for the delicious sashimi. Though I doubt I’ll wake up in time for the live auction haha. As long as I enjoy the fish, I’ll be a happy and satisfied customer.

  14. 5th March 2017 / 2:59 pm

    That is very interesting how auctioning is done in the markets of Japan. I have always wondered how easy it is to find the freshness of a fish! Interesting to see the buyer flashing light on the piece.

  15. 4th March 2017 / 5:18 pm

    What a great market adventure, I am a huge fan of any kind of market and I like to think of them as a microcosm of the culture and one of the best ways to explore a new area and learn about the local food. Being a huge sushi and sashimi fan I was drooling over your photos and wish I was there watching the action.

    • 21st May 2017 / 12:22 pm

      I apirtcpaee you taking to time to contribute That’s very helpful.

  16. 3rd March 2017 / 3:23 pm

    I’ve always be fascinated by markets in Asia, but this fish market looks like something else entirely! I always forget how big tuna actually are too – I’m so used to seeing it in tins that it rarely occurs to me that it is a huge fish! Visiting this market sounds like such an interesting experience and I guess having some fresh seafood for breakfast is an absolute must after the market visit!

  17. 3rd March 2017 / 10:14 am

    These photos totally capture the feel of that tuna auction! Or at least, what I assumed it would feel like after watching over 5 documentaries on it. I couldn’t agree more that the experience is well worth the wake up call. I love how you listed the rules/guidelines of visiting the market, definitely necessary for someone looking to visit!

  18. 3rd March 2017 / 2:09 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad I got to vicariously enjoy this through you. I really wished we had gotten up for this but it’s just too early. Sounds like you had a great time and ate delicious sashimi!

  19. 3rd March 2017 / 12:44 am

    WOW! Pictures are very beautiful but a bit raw for me! I love tuna and fish in general, but I don’t think this kind of experience would go down well with me..especially at 3am in the morning! I once went to the meat market in London and all the blood made me sick! 😛

  20. 2nd March 2017 / 10:38 pm

    Great details… I live in S. Korea and have made it to Noryangjin fish market in Seoul, and Jagalchi fish market in Busan. Both places were fascinating. I witnessed a lady trying to purchase a live octopus which somehow escaped, slid across the walkway and grabbed onto the fish vendor’s rubber boot, refusing to let go! I haven’t witnessed a fish auction yet. Very interesting blog. I’ll keep this in mind when I make it out to Tokyo!

  21. 2nd March 2017 / 4:43 pm

    This is awesome, what an experience 🙂 I saw this on the TV once and have always wanted to go. You’ve convinced me to get up at 3am and try it when we visit Tokyo! Like you said, if for nothing else, for the breakfast!

    • 21st May 2017 / 4:34 pm

      Could we just beat all these goreifggtas until they are that pink sludge or slime or whatever it is they add to fast food.No more patience left. I just can’t be kind or forgiving anymore.

  22. 2nd March 2017 / 4:36 pm

    Wow those tuna are humungous! I also love Japanese food so much, especially sushi and sashimi. It is nice to see how fresh the seafood are which is part of the reason why I love Japanese food. I need to visit this market if I go to this part of japan someday!

  23. 2nd March 2017 / 1:28 pm

    Oh my..check the size of the fish! I never knew tuna was so huge!! I loved the way you have described the experience…gives a real feel of the place. Glad you enjoyed some fresh sea food for breakfast. A good meal always elevates the experience.

  24. 26th February 2017 / 2:12 am

    This is such a neat experience! Thank you for sharing, love the pictures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.