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Tuna Auction @ Tsukiji Fish Market

Today is a very exciting day as I’m finally getting around to showing pictures from my week and a half long trip around Japan…from a year and a half ago. I planned pretty much every minute of this trip and was very, very excited to experience the food, shrines, sake and basically every aspect of Japan’s unique culture. First stop – Tokyo. I made a special visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market and took so many images that I’m experimenting with the gallery feature. Click on the play button for a slideshow of of tuna, octopus and fish market shots (or you can click the right arrow to move at your own pace).

Tsukiji (pronounced like ski – ji)  is the world’s largest fish and seafood market and embodies the heart, soul and stomach of Tokyo. The market handles over 400 types of seafood from inexpensive seaweed to premium caviar, from tiny sardines to 300kg tuna. If you’re interested in visiting, hopefully you’re either jet lagged or an early bird – Tsukiji is most active around 5:30am – 8:00am.

Details

Where: reserve a spot at the fish info center inside Kachidoki Gate
Map: here
How: be one of the first 120 people
When: Group 1 (60 people) see an auction at 5:25am / Group 2 (60 people) see an auction at 5:50am

The highlight of visiting Tsukiji Market is the tuna auction. Public (tourist) access is limited to 120 people (in two shifts of 60) and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration begins at 4:30am  at the fish information center (Osakana Fukyu Center) inside the Kachidoki Gate off Harumi Street. Check out this map for an idea of the marketplace layout and how to find the gate. Make sure to wake up early! And I mean EARLY. The first time we tried, we aimed to arrive at 4:30am and that was too late. A really friendly old Japanese man zoomed us around on his motor cart to help us find the info center. Alas, those carts max out at 20 miles an hour… so we didn’t make it.

The number of visitors to the tuna auction builds fast, and is strictly capped at the 120 person maximum. It takes some time to find the right gate so definitely build in some additional travel time. The tokyo metro won’t be open until 5:00am so you’ll definitely need to take a cab and Tokyo cab fare is astronomically wallet shattering, so try to wake up sufficiently early and avoid taking two trips to Tsukiji like I did. I think i spent like $140 on the two cabs (ugh).

Once you arrive at the fish info center, you’ll stand in line until the room is full and be asked to wear a vest to identify you as part of the group (neon green for group 1, blue for group 2). Then, the group is herded single file to the auction site to see one entire auction. Group 1 will see an auction at 5:25am while Group 2 will see a later auction at 5:50am. The attendants herd effectively; wandering is not allowed. In other sections of the warehouse, other auctions occur simultaneously. Most of the tuna is frozen and the bidders inspect part of the tail flesh to determine quality. It gets a bit crowded and most likely the tourist group will have several photographer enthusiasts, so there is some jostling and elbowing for a good view. The best part, in my opinion, is when the auction is over and you’re let loose out of the warehouse. Gone are the herding guardsmen and I was able to get some closer shots and peek into the other warehouse sections!

I highly recommend going but if you’d rather sleep in, or haven’t the nose for fish, check out the gallery above for some scenes from the tuna auction. After the auction, we went to get a sushi breakfast at Sushi Daiwa. It was perfect timing, since the restaurants open at 5am. There was a line but it we waited maybe 45 minutes? Dai and Daiwa are near each other so I’d go to whichever has the shorter line – they serve the same omakase set menu of about 10-12 pieces of fish, if I remember correctly. I went in 2012 and remember it costing around $50 USD so it’s a definite steal given how fresh the sushi is!

For more on Tsukiji, check out the various fish stalls and sushi breakfast options!

Read more: Travel to Japan

 

Want to know what else to do in Tokyo? Check out my full Japan series:

sher she goes soy sauce 'sushi dai'

Tokyo


That Time I Got Naked with Strangers… My Japanese Bathhouse Experience

Tsukiji Fish Market Pt 1 Is the Tuna Auction Worth Visiting?

Tsukiji Fish Market Pt 2 (You Woke Up Late) The Other Stalls

How to Travel Japan Shinkansen & the Japan Rail Pass

Tokyo’s Most Famous Temple: Asakusa and Senso-Ji

Hotel Review Mornings at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Tokyo Sights: Visiting the Imperial East Gardens

Kyoto


A Visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto (Memoirs of a Geisha!)

What Does It Mean to Donate a Torii Gate

Sanjusangendo Temple and the 1,000 Statues of Kannon

Japan Eats


Sushi for Breakfast, Really? Sushi Daiwa at Tsukiji

Delicious Bakery Treats Mont Thabor & The Park Hyatt

Is Japan Vegetarian Friendly? Here’s What You Can Expect & Eat More Greens

Dessert Among Diamonds Mikimoto Lounge

How Good is Japanese Tonkatsu

 

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JaniceApril 10, 2014 - 10:02 pm

I was so disappointed that there were no auctions when we went over Christmas as it was getting close to New Year! We’re going to have to go back just to see this! We did line up for 3 hours for Sushi Dai… despite getting there at 4am. The things we do for food! Can’t wait to see the rest of your posts about Japan! I just posted one about the amazing tofu we had in Kyoto :)

Janice

http://www.lespetiteschoses.ca

KatyApril 11, 2014 - 6:01 pm

That looks like an incredible spot to visit. Even though that sounds like PAINfully early wake up call, it definitely seems worth it. You got some great shots that really show the activity of the auction and the warehouse!

Can’t wait to see what else you saw around Japan.

SherApril 12, 2014 - 1:36 am

ha, it definitely took dedication but I REALLY wanted to see it. thanks for stopping by Katy!

SherApril 12, 2014 - 1:36 am

aw, i didn’t know it shut down. ooh sushi dai, that’s where we went right after! it was such a crazy wrap around line. i’ll be sure to check out your Kyoto food post!

[…] you’re not a morning person and plan to skip the tuna auction, a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market is still worth it to explore the fresh fish (and other salty […]

[…] in Tokyo, I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Tsukiji fish market. Not only should you see the tuna auction and wander the inner market stalls, but definitely swing by Sushi Daiwa for one of the freshest […]

[…] Browse the fishy stalls and grab the famous sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market […]

[…] Tsukiji Fish Market Pt 1 Is the Tuna Auction Worth Visiting? […]

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