If you love raw fish, this is the place to go for the freshest sushi in Japan. For the bravest, do not miss the incredible tuna auction held daily.
Tsukiji fish market is not only the largest fish market in the world but also an increasingly popular tourist attraction in Tokyo. Now that I live in Tokyo I realize why only tourists brave the ordeal of the early wake up to see the colossal tuna fish sold at auction for insane prices. In most cases it is that people arriving in Japan are usually jetlagged, and therefore wake up at the perfect time for the tuna auction, while the rest of us are sleeping soundly or partying the night away. This is why I am going to present you with two alternative ways of discovering Tokyo’s fish market: one for the newly arrived, and one for the long-timers.
Itinerary 1: Early Risers (5:00)
- Tuna auction: There are two tuna auctions in the morning (5:25 and 5:50) but on busy days arriving at 5:15 won’t cut it. The counter opens at 5:00, registration works on a first-come first-served basis (60 people at a time) so make sure to arrive on time or even a little before opening time to be sure. The auction itself is quite spectacular, the buyers walk along the lines of tuna, each fish measuring around two meters long, tasting their flesh and noting their numbers. When the bidding begins it seems like the auctioneer is rapping to a crowd, his Japanese fast and precise whilst bidders raise their paddles repeatedly until the price is reached.
- Walk through the fish market: The auction ends with a short walk through the market during which you can get an idea of all the work behind the sushi you plan to eat that very night. The fish is meticulously cut up with band saws, and shipped out to restaurants all over the city and even Japan.In some cases you may see some interesting sights, such as a live octopus trying to escape, or crabs fighting lobsters in a crate.
Itinerary 2: Easy Going (8:00)
Keep in mind that the second itinerary is the continuation of the first one
- Walk the greater market: If you are fully awake and ready to keep exploring then visit the surrounding market. Tsukiji is more than just a fish market, it is set with all sorts of stalls selling everything from chopsticks to meat to sashimi knives. Be sure to take your time and appreciate the diversity of this unique Japanese marketplace.
- Enjoy the sashimi: Once out of the market find one of the many neighboring restaurants and dig in to a raw fish breakfast. Sushi, sashimi, tekkamaki etc. all will exceed expectations and explode on your palate. Even if the fish is frozen at sea it will be a lot fresher here than in any restaurant in the country
- Explore the inner market: This part of the market only opens at 9:00 and is where the auctions were held earlier except now it is a labyrinth of stalls selling every fish you could possibly imagine.
The market is expected to relocate in November of 2016 so make the most of it while you still can. I definitely recommend this to all residing or passing through Tokyo as it is a great experience for all your senses (except maybe your nose) and apart from breakfast it is free!