Tsukiji Fish Market is probably one of the most unique experiences that you can do in Tokyo. Heck yeah it’s smack dab in the midst of Tokyo, but it has a totally different atmosphere than the rest of glitzy Tokyo.
The hustle and bustle, and the busy fish market feels of this place plus the the sights and the wafting aroma of fresh street food, and long queues to established restaurants and the eager crowd of tourists and locals make this place one of a kind.
If you’re a fan of Japanese street food and Japanese food in general (who isn’t), this is a good place to start your culinary experience in Tokyo. Why? Because for decades this humble place has been a culinary haven and the source of the freshest seafood for restaurants in Tokyo – add to that the fact that Tsukiji Fish Market was the biggest fish market in Tokyo (the title is now taken by the newly constructed Toyosu Fish Market in 2018), you will surely experience a ton of action and diverse selection of food in this place.
Although the inner fish market, the live tuna auction and iconic restaurants such as Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi have already moved to Toyosu, the old Tsukiji Outer Market still has its rustic charm and old Japan vibes that Toyosu doesn’t have, and there’s still much more to explore and experience (and eat!) in Tsukiji Fish Market.
Just note that the last time I went to Tsukiji, it seems street food prices went up significantly (aka tourist price) and some stores have become too touristy, but there are still a few good places in the nooks and crannies of Tsukiji where locals queue up for – if you know where to find it, that is.
The Tsukiji Fish Market
Originally established in 1935, Tsukiji Fish Market was known as one of the largest wholesale fish markets in the world, with it being a cornerstone of Tokyo’s seafood trade for decades. Its historic significance lies in being one of the largest wholesale fish markets in the world, attracting seafood aficionados from all corners of the globe. Although it has recently relocated to Toyosu in 2018, the spirit and essence of Tsukiji live on, making it a must-visit destination.
Tsukiji Fish Market consists of two distinct areas: the Inner Market and the Outer Market.
The Inner Market, previously the heart of Tsukiji, has now transferred to Toyosu. It was primarily a business area where the famous tuna auctions and wholesale seafood trading took place. Although tourists were generally not permitted in this section, you could still catch a glimpse of the auctions from designated observation decks.
On the other hand, the Outer Market remains in Tsukiji and has become a popular destination for food enthusiasts. This bustling area houses an array of shops, stalls, and restaurants, offering a delightful fusion of fresh seafood, spices, and local products.
Although the Inner Market has moved to Toyosu, the remaining Outer Market is still business-as-usual and remains the same. The vendors are still serving fresh seafood and the old mom-and-pop shops are still selling their wares and specialties.
*Note: Since the Inner Market of Tsukiji already moved to Toyosu, this guide will be focused on the Outer Market of Tsukiji a.k.a. Tsukiji Outer Market or simply, Tsukiji Fish Market.
How to Get to Tsukiji Fish Market
Getting to Tsukiji Fish Market is fairly easy by Subway: Take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Tsukiji Station OR the Toei Oedo Line to Tsukijishijo Station, and it’s just a short walk to the market. Just use the Google maps app to find your way to the market as it’s very reliable in navigating Tokyo.
Check out my guide on the unlimited 24, 48, and 72-hour Tokyo Subway Ticket to save train tickets when touring around Tokyo,
Best Times to Visit & Times to Avoid
If you really want in on all the action, suggest you visit in the early morning, as early as 5 to 7 AM. This is when the market is alive and kicking, and you can experience the full energy of the place and enjoy the freshest seafood offerings.
Arriving at the market as early as you can is ideal as it allows you to witness the early morning activities, such as the fishmongers setting up their stalls, chefs selecting ingredients, and the market coming alive with energy. Moreover, arriving early gives you the advantage of beating the crowds and ensures you have more time to explore and take on a street food crawl.
IMPORTANT: Most shops close by 2PM, and some shops even close as early as 12 noon, so you really have to set your alarm to get the full experience.
Here’s a breakdown of the operating days for Tsukiji Fish Market:
The Outer Market is generally open from Tuesday to Sunday and these are the best days to go. However, it’s important to note that some shops and restaurants may choose to close on specific days of the week or have irregular schedules, so schedules are not set in stone and may vary. If there’s a specific store or place you’ve been meaning to check out, it’s a good idea to check their individual opening days in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you want that vibrant and lively experience at Tsukiji Outer Market, make the visit from Tuesday to Saturday (again, do it in the morning). During these days, you’ll find a wider variety of shops, stalls, and restaurants open, offering an array of fresh seafood, street food, and local products.
The Tsukiji Outer Market is typically closed on Sundays, some Wednesdays, and national holidays. This is because many suppliers and workers take these days off. To make the most of your visit, it’s advisable to avoid these closed days and plan your trip accordingly.
Always remember – the specific operating hours of individual shops and restaurants within the Outer Market may vary. It’s a good practice to check their respective websites or social media pages for the most up-to-date information on their opening hours, closures, and any special events.
The Best Things to Do in Tsukiji Fish Market
All the rest of activities in the list below can be taken in any order or as you wish, but I recommend you go to the number 1 item first immediately upon arriving to the market to orient yourself and know as much about the market as possible before exploring.
1. Visit Plat Tsukiji (Tourist Information Center)
To save on time, upon arriving at Tsukiji Fish Market make sure to check out Plat Tsukiji (Tsukiji Outer Market Information Center) first to find out what’s the latest, what’s the freshest, what’s in season, and get an area map plus a brochure of their current offerings. Do note that the Tsukiji area is big, so it’s worthwhile to orient yourself with the place first before heading all out to explore.
It seems that not many tourists come here or maybe they’re unaware of its existence, but this place is a treasure trove of information about Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s a very helpful stop especially if you’re looking for a specific shop or a certain ingredient which can be hard to find especially for non-Japanese speakers.
Japanese aunties and uncles run this place and they’re all very eager to tell you about Tsukiji Fish Market (they speak enough English to help you out), and from here you can ask for the best things to eat or shops to go to that only locals like them know.
They also sell Tsukiji-related souvenirs and t-shirts that you can only buy here at Plat Tsukiji, so if you are looking for Tsukiji-exclusive merch and souvenirs, this is THE place to go.
Beside Plat Tsukiji they also have ATM and currency machines as well as a Tax Refund counter, a smoking area, and coin lockers for those with luggage on them. Plat Tsukiji is located along Namiyoke Street (right side of the street) – just right when you enter Tsukiji Fish Market.
2. Go on a street food crawl
If it’s not already obvious, no visit to this market is complete without sampling on some of Tsukiji’s street food. Indulge in the iconic street food options available throughout the market – these include tamagoyaki (omelet on a stick), taiyaki (ice cream served on a fish-shaped pancake), and of course fresh seafood including fresh grilled scallops, oysters, tuna, sea urchin, and grilled anything else that’s fresh on that day. Check out my blog post on the must-try street food when in Tsukiji Fish Market for more info on the best things to eat in the area. 🙂
3. Queue up and sample the freshest catch at a restaurant
It’s not all about street food at Tsukiji – this is also where you can find the finest restaurants serving only the freshest sushi, sashimi rice bowls and uni rice bowls – not only tourists line up, even locals do because they’re really that good.
You can usually find these restaurants in the narrow alleys within the market – one tip to find them is when you see people lining up (but the queue can’t spill on to the main street so you need to look for it), there probably is a small yet amazing restaurant right in that alley.
4. Check out the shops selling kitchen and tableware
If you’re so inspired by the Japanese dining experience and want to recreate it at home, you will probably need Japanese kitchenware and dinnerware to complete the experience.
You will find almost everything here: choose from kawaii ornaments and decors to porcelain dinnerware subduedly decorated with Japanese art to Kintsugi (金継ぎ) plates where broken plates were repaired by applying gold to broken edges, to elegant teacups pots and even chopsticks.
5. Visit the specialty shops and sample on the free tastes
Do check out the shops that sell traditional goods such as tea, dried bonito flakes, Japanese pickles, dried fish, and Tsukudani (Japanese preserved good). Sometimes the shops give out free samples, so you get to taste them all and see what you want to take home with you.
6. Visit and admire the Namiyoke Inari Shrine
Just walk straight ahead from Tsukiji’s main ‘entrance’, past the street food stalls, and you will find the Namiyoke Inari Shrine.
Not much people come here (they’re probably busy with all the stuff the market has to offer), but I recommend going to this place as it’s worth seeing, given its deep connection to Tsukiji market (and the imposing lion head statue).
The lack of tourists coming here is also an advantage to those who know because it makes for a serene and beautiful temple worth visiting. Go here for the big lion head! This is also where they host the annual Tsukiji Lion Dance Festival.
7. Attend a cooking class
Given Tsukiji’s status as a culinary haven in Tokyo, it’s no wonder cooking classes are a-plenty in the area. Take this opportunity to enhance your culinary skills by joining a cooking class or sushi-making workshop in or near Tsukiji Fish Market.
Several places in and around Tsukiji offer hands-on experiences where you can learn the art of sushi preparation or traditional Japanese cooking techniques – one of the most well-known is the Tokyo Sushi Academy (pictured above) as it’s the world’s first sushi school!
8. See the Tsukiji Hongwanji temple (and have a temple breakfast while you’re at it)
You will most likely come across this temple when walking from Tsukiji station to the actual market, so it’s impossible to miss.
Tsukiji Hongwanji is a Buddhist temple that offers a unique architecture that’s influenced by temples in India. In this place is also where you can have a unique breakfast experience: the breakfast platter by Cafe Tsumuji, which is known for its 18-dish breakfast platter (priced around 1,800 yen before tax). This colorful meal is inspired by traditional Buddhist dining called ‘Shojin Ryori’, which offers a variety of small, simple dishes primarily made from vegetables and tofu, though some include meat and fish.
Breakfast is available daily from 8 to 10 AM, but do note that they are limited to 110 servings a day so you need to go ahead of time to get a spot.
9. Visit the Kabuki-za theater
Now this one’s a few minutes’ walk from the market (it’s already technically in Ginza), but when you’re already in Tsukiji anyway, it’s no a brainer to visit the theater as it’s a must visit especially if you’re into culture and Japanese kabuki theatre.
The grandiose facade of the theater is enough to make you want to visit. But you may want to complete the experience by actually watching – the Box Office is located on Basement Level 2.
Take note before you visit Tsukiji
- Can’t stress this enough – go early or miss out on all the action! Set that alarm if needed!
- Bring cash – to make sure you’re able to buy that super nice, one-of-a-kind thing you found while lost in the market. Most of the stalls only accept cash, so make sure you have it when visiting.
- Enjoy your visit! No, seriously. Enjoy the surroundings, and the hustle and bustle and all the tasty street food being cooked as you wander. Make sure you try on the free stuff, check out the vast array of Japanese tableware that’s for sale, and take advantage of the opportunity to try the freshest catch of the day – you’ll never know what an uber fresh sashimi rice bowl tastes like until you’ve tried one, and this is one of the rare places you can get it.