I like visiting markets. They’re usually vibrant, bustling and you can always count on a fun experience with lots to see and eat. The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world and a major tourist attraction is the tuna auction that takes place at 5am. They had banned tourists from the auction a couple of years back due to the disruption it caused to the wholesalers. The ban has since been lifted but access is limited only to 140 visitors per day, and tourists only get to watch from a designated spot. Sadly, we had to give the auction a miss since the earliest train from our hotel only left at 5.40am. Still, we arrived bright and early at 6 to catch the market in action.
Upon arriving, we quickly realised that Tsukiji is a WORKING wholesale market. This means these guys at the market have a serious business to run, and they really have no time or space to entertain tourists. Walking through the market was incredibly stressful. Barely awake, I found myself having to avoid whizzing carts that were being driven at breakneck speed and fishermen hauling boxes of seafood to their stalls through the narrow walkways. Trying to stay out of everyone’s way was no easy task. Still it was an eye-opening experience with the famed huge tunas and super fresh seafood all around.
Then as we walked out of the market a good 2 hours later, we realised to our horror that tourists are only allowed in the wholesale market after 9am. We had completely missed the notice as it was still dark when we arrived. Thank goodness the Japanese are a polite bunch – not once did we get yelled at by irritated stallowners or gruffly shoved out of the way. In fact, I had a couple of friendly nods when I asked if I could take pictures. Still we felt bad, especially when we saw this drawing. Aiyo.
Highly recommended as a must-see in Tokyo but be mindful of the visiting hours.
Tsukiji Market is just above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a five minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Subway Line. The closest JR station is Shimbashi, from where you can walk to the market in about 15 minutes.
From Tokyo Station
Take the Marunouchi Subway Line from Tokyo to Ginza (3 minutes) and transfer to the Hibiya Subway Line to get to Tsukiji Station (3 minutes). The fare is 160 yen.