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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Have You Been To Tsukiji Fish Market?
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