At the corner of Shin-Ohashi-dori and Harumi dori, is one of the most iconic spots in Tokyo: Tsukiji Market. Merchants line the narrow alleyways to offer seafood and produce. The bustling atmosphere leaves you enthralled and eager to taste everything at this fish market.
You won’t be disappointed in the adventure of it all. I would suggest trying anything that looks delicious or captures your curiosity! The adventurous part of Tsukiji Fish Market is the most alluring part.
About Tsukiji Market
I first discovered Tsukiji Fish Market over 10 years ago when I was studying for my AP classes in high school. I usually kept the Food Network and Travel Channel on as background noise because I was up late due to my extra-curriculars and varsity sports (some people played music, I played travel/food shows ahaha). As I watched the host walk shoulder-to-shoulder in the market, I loved seeing the food they ate.
Tsukiji Outer Market is where you find street food and shop fresh produce. Tsukiji Inner Market was used for wholesale and the renown tuna auctions. In October 2018, the tuna auctions moved to Toyosu. You can still observe the tuna auctions but things have changed slightly. The excitement, however, has not. This month, a 608 lbs bluefin tuna sold for ¥193.2 million ($1.8 million USD)! The purchase marked the second-highest price on record.
To view the tuna auctions, you previously had to arrive by 2:00am and hope to get into the limited “observer” group. Now, you are free to view the exhilarating auction from the lower or upper observatory decks. There are only 120 visitors allowed between the hours of 5:45-6:15am, in 10 minute increments. The upper deck is guaranteed but the lower deck is only available through the free lottery application. You need to apply over a month in advance and can register up to five people (infants included).
Tsukiji Outer Market
For the sake of sharing the best experience (and eating more food), Alex and I made two visits to Tsukiji Outer Market. We stopped by once in the late morning on a Saturday, then again in the early morning on a Thursday. Both visits were great, but we personally preferred a more-lively ambiance.
Our first outing took place on a Saturday morning at 10:30am. We walked along the packed sidewalks leading to the outer market at a relatively slow pace. Right as were about to turn down our initial alley, I noticed unagi, freshwater eel, sitting on top of a grill. Not being able to resist the sweet, rich smell, we made our first purchase at the market. I happily ate the unagi skewer after the vendor blow-torched the tare– a sweet, thick soy sauce.
I ALMOST made the mistake of walking and eating with my food. At the market, you’re suppose to eat your food at the vendor’s stall, and then throw away your garbage with the vendor. This is typical for eating and walking in general in Japan. Do one or the other, but not both.
After savoring the last bite of the unagi skewer, Alex and I took our first step down the canopy-lined stalls. As we walked by, we observed everything. Fragrant matcha, golden tempura, crafted-kitchen knives priced over $2000 and more. This visit was what we imaged the market to look like!
Our second visit brought us to the market around 8:00am. It was very quiet and didn’t have the same energy as our previous visit. However, we could easily walk up and purchase anything. Our earlier visit had lines for food, but the lines took no longer than 5 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, or recovering from jet lag, then the early-morning market could be a better option.
Another reason why people like to visit Tsukiji Fish Market in the morning is because they stop in a restaurant for chirashi or donburi. Our chirashi experience wasn’t my most favorite sushi experience, but we didn’t spend too much time deciding which restaurant to go to since we had to catch a train out of Tokyo. I would recommend just eating the street food. But, if you would like to do chirashi then I would spend more time browsing the multiple restaurants.
There was so much to take in, but it was a pleasantly overwhelming sensation. My most favorite part of the market were the giant oysters from Hokkaido. Crazy enough, they had an oyster larger than the one I photographed!
What Street Food to Eat
Most street food could be purchased for less than ¥500 ($4.30 USD). Our chirashi in the restaurant was more, ¥3800 ($34.59 USD) per bowl. As I mentioned, the Hokkaido oysters were #1 for me! I spotted uni but didn’t eat it since it didn’t have that rich, golden color. There was more food I wanted to try, but we were too full!
- Do not walk around with your food. Enjoy your street food from the stall you bought it at, then throw your trash away with the vendor.
- For a busy market (my recommendation for ambiance), arrive around 10:00am. We left around 1:00pm and there was still so much food to buy and eat.
- For an empty market, arrive around 8:00am. Many people like to arrive at this time or earlier so that they are guaranteed a seat in a restaurant for chirashi or donburi.
- If you’re a tuna fan, you will want to get your take on allll of the fatty tuna. You can find several nigiri stalls selling:
- Otoro: the fattiest part of tuna that melts in your mouth
- Chutoro: the belly area of the tuna, not as fatty as otoro
- Akami: lean tuna, and honestly my favorite type
If you’d like to see more of my travels in Japan, please feel free to check out my Instagram.