They say Tsukiji Fish Market is a must-see destination for anybody visiting Tokyo. And I like fish. So….it was kind of a no-brainer.
This post was originally published in 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
They also say (“they” are full of great advice) that seeing Tsukiji Fish Market is best done in the company of a local, who can give you an inside scoop for the dazzling array of things I guarantee you’ll otherwise be totally clueless about. So, when I was contacted by Local Guddy to try out their service, I took them up on their offer to connect me with Kumiko, the “local guddy” for Tokyo. (It looks like Local Guddy was a casualty of the pandemic, as their website doesn’t work any more. But there are other similar services, like WithLocals, GetYourGuide, and GlobalGreeter. Check out my article about Best Travel Websites, Best Travel Apps, and awesome budget travel tips for these and other suggestions to connect local guides with travelers).
Tsukiji Fish Market Facts
Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest wholesale fish market in the world, and one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. It employs 65,000 people, and does over $6 billion in sales annually.
So, it’s a busy place.
There are two distinct parts to Tsukiji Fish Market: the inner and outer market.
The inner market is the beating heart of Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s a licensed wholesale market accommodating about 900 wholesale dealers who operate small stalls.
It’s also where the world-renowned tuna auction takes place. Now, if you want to watch the auction (which happens most days of the week), be aware that there is a limited number of spots available in the tourist viewing area. In order to claim your spot you’ve got to show up early; some people say lining up at 3 or 4am will get you in, while others say you need to line up even earlier.
Me? Not a chance. I like fish; but I like sleep more.
Aside from the auction, the inner market is a hub of activity starting at about 3am. Visitors aren’t generally allowed in the inner market before 10am however, given that it is first and foremost a place of business. Indeed, it was a sea of funny little motorized carts buzzing around (which you need to watch out for, by the way; they’ll run you down in the name of getting their fish where it needs to go).
Although Kumiko says in the video below that the outer market is for tourists, this isn’t strictly true. The outer market of Tsukiji Fish Market is a mix of wholesale and retail shops selling groceries, seafood, kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, and all kinds of packaged foods, which Kumiko assured me are the best deals in the city.
The outer market is also where you get sushi…and lots of it. Lining the narrow lanes are dozens of eateries, some with long lineups of people waiting for hours to get into these establishments, many of which seat no more than 10 people. Although you may feel inclined to join one of these lineups (Japanese people love a good lineup), no matter where you go it’s going to be fresh and delicious and priced similarly.
In general, Tsukiji Fish Market is busiest between 5:30 and 8am. I was there at 10:30am and the inner market was quite obviously closing up shop for the day (having been open since 3am). The outer market was still pretty busy, but as time went by, I noticed many places winding down. By early afternoon the Tsukiji Fish Market is definitely towards the end of its day.
Tsukiji Fish Market Adventures Video
Want to get in on the live action? Check out my first-hand experience of Tsukiji Fish Market below:
Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube.
Tsukiji Fish Market Tours
I adored my tour of the market, and if you want to get the most of the experience, go with somebody who can show you the inner workings you’d never find on your own! Here are some tour suggestions:
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8 thoughts on “Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo Japan (Vlog Ep. 12)”
Nora, loved the tour—what a dynamic place. I spent a lot of time at Pikes Place Market when I lived in Seattle long ago, and it had some flavors of that, although with Asian seasonings. Very fun to see you having fun in yet another interesting place.
Thanks, Tom! Yeah, Japan has been an experience. I do so love Asian food and flavours though…..thank goodness we can find similar marketplaces around the world, huh?
Love that she’s wearing a kimono! Taking your advice and definitely getting a guide when I go 🙂 Thanks Nora! That background music is funny haha
LOL – glad you enjoyed the music….I’m terrible at selecting tracks; I usually just get tired after about 30 mins and go with the next track I listen to. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!! 😉
When are you arriving in Tokyo?
I never made it to the tuna auction either, but have been to the fish market twice on previous travels and it’s amazing!! Missing Tokyo and super fresh sushi now!!
Indeed, the sushi in Tokyo is a force to be reckoned with! However I must admit that the sushi at the fish market – although delightful – seemed a bit overpriced. I later visited restaurants where I ordered similar dishes and spent about 2/3 of the price for it.
When they talk about “fresh” sushi, it’s a bit of a fallacy anyway, because most “fresh” fish is frozen first anyway! Ha ha! So I’m a bit skeptical as to whether the fish at Tsukiji fish market was any more fresh than other places in Tokyo. I don’t know!
The fish market was one of my favorite experiences when I was in Tokyo. Getting there at 6 am wasn’t easy (because it means waking at 5 am), but well worth the sleep deprivation. With a bunch of my business compatriots (going with others is highly recommended), we wandered the inner market, marveled at the subtlety of the bidders responding to a highly animated seafood auctioneer, and ended our visit with a sushi and beer breakfast at 8 am with some fishermen at an ad hoc bar in the outer market. Great fun.
To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me to go early anyway not to see the tuna auction but the other auctions.
And how cool that you found an out-of-the-way sushi breakfast spot to dine with some fishermen! What fun.