Tsukiji fish market aerial view
Full view of Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Someone once asked me have I ever been to “that famous fish market place” you know, Tsukiji Fish Market. Since I have lived in Japan, of course I replied but really could not tell them much as it was a long time ago and I was half asleep trying to get there in the wee hours of the morning.

Now if you have been hiding under a rock, you will know I am talking about the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo which just happens to be  is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and is one of the largest wholesale food markets also.

The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo which is easily accessible by the Hibiya line subway line straight to Tsukiji station and/or the Oedo line going to Tsukijishijo station. Both stations are quite central to walk to the actual market.

Visiting the market there are basically two sections, the “inner market” and the “outer market” to visit. The inner market is basically limited to visitors as it is where most of the auctions take place in the wee hours of the morning. There are hundreds of stalls with over 900 licensed wholesale dealers. The outer market is a mix of wholesale and retail shops that sell kitchen and restaurant supplies, basic grocery foods and of course the freshest seafood. There are also a lot of restaurants to choose from especially sushi restaurants. When visiting though keep in mind that by mid afternoon everything will be closed down due to the early start to the day.

Tsukiji fish market frozen tuna
Tuna being inspected before auction

Tsukiji Fish market deals in 400 different types of seafood everyday. Anything from seaweed, caviar, tiny sardines, lots of different shellfish to massive and expensive tuna.  The volume of sales at the market can reach up to 700,000 tons of seafood each year.

The market opens up each day around 3am to receive all the products that come in by transport, ship and plane from all over the world. Getting there early will give you possibly a glimpse of all the frozen tuna being unloaded and sorted for the daily auction. After all the fish are sorted the wholesalers will then inspect all the products for a value. After that the buyers then get a chance to walk around inspecting which things they want to bid on.

The actual Tsukiji fish market auction starts around 5:15 am. Bids can only be placed by those operating the many stalls at eh market for resale later that morning and for licenced buyers for the many restaurants, retail companies and food processors. The auction will last for about 4 – 4.5 hours to which then products will then be loaded for the final destination.

One really cool thing to watch if you can is watching the retailers cut t

he huge pieces of tuna. This is done usually with a huge bandsaw and is quite an awesome thing to watch. Another way and more traditional is visiting some retailer stalls and watch them carve tuna with a long knife called a “oroshi

hocho”. I have seen this a few times in a local department store and what a spectacle they do make it. Sometimes you can even get a few samples of the freshly cut tuna, which if you like raw tuna is the best of the best.

Visiting Tsukiji is a must do when visiting Tokyo. There is so much to see, do and experience and is probably great for a half day excursion. Around Tsukiji there is also a nice park to visit called Hamarikyu Gardens where you can enjoy a nice lunch and/or catch a boat over to Odaiba or up to Asakusa.

As of today, August 30,2018 plans to relocate the market to the Toyosu area have been finalized for autumn 2018. It was originally planned to move in Nov 2016 but was postponed in Aug 2016 due to soil samples from the Toyosu area that were contaminated. An effort to clean up the area begun and has now been approved for the move. So, remember if you visit Tokyo after autumn 2018 make sure you plan on going to Toyosu and not Tsukiji. I am positive once the move is final, the same experience can be had and will still be a most enjoyable visit. Toyosu provides a lot more than Tsukiji does not only with the fish market but also a major shopping attraction in LaLa Port mall.

Stay safe, travel well.