Eat & Drink
Tsukiji is the greatest fish market there is, handling over 2,000 tons of fresh seafood a day. Observing the busy buyers and sellers haggle is half the fun, but to win the game you really need to eat some of the catch at one of the many sushi bars in the area. Early morning is best for the fullest and most authentic experience.
Tsukiji is south of Tokyo Station and right next to the Ginza area.
Take the Oedo Subway Line to Tsukiji-Shijo Station or the Hibiya Subway Line to Tsukiji Station. If you have a JR Pass, the nearest JR station is Shimbashi, just a 15-minute walk away.
If you plan to attend the tuna auction, it may be a good idea to stay within walking distance, since public transportation doesn't operate during the very early morning hours.
The most exciting part of the Tsukiji Market is the famous tuna auction that begins at 5:25 a.m. The rest of the market opens to the public at 10 a.m. on weekdays, but you need to line up before 3 a.m. for this premium experience. Only the first 120 visitors get to witness the auction.
If you are lucky enough to get in, you will get a vest that indicates which of the two tour groups you'll be joining. Stay close to your guide as you traverse the complex, and watch out for the service vehicles zipping all around. You'll enter a room full of frozen tuna and see expert buyers examining each fish.
Buyers signal their bids with quick hand gestures, and the fish are promptly whisked away to be carved up for restaurants. The efficiency on display is what makes this process so impressive.
Explore the wholesale market area to see the day's catch. You can find roughly 500 types of marine life on sale as well as an impressive array of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wholesale market is open to the public at 10 a.m. on weekdays.
You can eat some of this ocean bounty raw, but if you don't have means of preparing food on your own, leave that to the professionals at nearby eateries.
The surrounding area thrives thanks to the fresh fish coming through the market. You can't go wrong with any of the nearby sushi restaurants. Most of the itamae chefs, have had decades of training and experience. Their expertise, combined with the fresh seafood they have access to, makes for a fine dining experience.
If you are already in Tsukiji for the early morning tuna auction, you must stick around for some breakfast sushi afterward.
The Tsukiji Market is vastly popular, but it's capacity is limited. To rectify this, the market is relocating to a larger facility in Toyosu as early as fall 2018. It's not yet clear how the overall experience will change, so take advantage of the original Tsukiji location while you still can.