I strongly believe that visiting a local market is one of the best ways of soaking up the culture and getting better insight into the culinary scene. Since fish is such an integral part of Japanese cuisine no trip to Tokyo should go without a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market, especially if you are a seafood lover. Being one of the oldest and biggest wholesale fish markets in the world a visit to Tsukiji will definitely have your senses go active. The market is sprawling, organized yet chaotic, bustling and crowded with fishmongers, chefs and ever so curious tourists; you smell fish, you see fish and you eat fish at every corner. While you can be spontaneous and just randomly hit the place, there is so much to see I’d highly recommend you do a little schoolwork before you go so that you are better prepared. Here is a little guide that I prepared of what to do and see in Tsukiji Fish Market.
Check Tsukiji Calendar Before You Go
Market is closed on Sundays, on public holidays and certain Wednesdays. Therefore, it is always important to check the calendar before you plan your visit. Here is the direct link to the 2016 calendar which is updated on a regular basis.
Visit Tsukiji Market Tsukiji Market consists of an outer market filled with retail shops, food stalls and restaurants catering to the public; and an inner market where most of the wholesale business and the famous tuna auctions are taking place and a popular row of sushi restaurants is located. As a general reference here is the map that helped me a lot to find my way around.
When you arrive and exit Tsukiji Train Station (Exit #1 or #2) follow the road ahead of you, passing a beautiful Buddhist temple (photo above) until you reach an intersection. By this time you will already catch a whiff of seafood and notice huge murals of fish on the buildings. A large tuna serves as a beacon of the outer market. Go through extremely crowded row of small sushi counters and ramen shops, as well as vendors selling fresh produce.
At the end of the passage turn left to find yourself on another bustling street where Information Center is located (on your left). Don’t hesitate to venture into the narrow back alleys there and explore.
If you want to get to the oldest part of Tsukiji Market, i.e. the inner market, you have to stay on the main highway past the “big tuna passage” until you get to a huge warehouse-looking building and turn left. You will notice a lot of action and the busy atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers hurrying around. There are no signs directing you to the inner market, you just have to keep going until you reach another massive building inside which the market is located. I notice that a lot of visitors tend to miss the inner market entirely, because the Information Center does not include it on their map, there are no signs, and it’s tucked away from the outer market and a bit tricky to find.
Please mind that the inner market opens to general public at 9 a.m. and usually starts winding down around 11 a.m..
Even though I felt quite in the way of the merchants, I liked perusing its wet cobblestoned passages and gawking at the variety of seafood that was on sale. If it lives in the sea, chances are that it can be found at Tsukiji, anything from delicious alfonsino and tuna to bivalves I have never even heard of.
Hundreds of tourists are attracted to the market by a tuna auction which is happening on a daily basis. Honestly, I am not intrigued enough to wake up in the wee hours of night just to observe the rapid-fire bidding on hundreds of frozen carcasses. However, if you think this is something that might fascinate you there are a few aspects to consider. Most importantly, you have to be at the market by 3:30 a.m. to have a solid chance to attend, even though you will not be admitted to the auction until 5:25 a.m. and you are only given 25 mins to be inside. Since I haven’t been I cannot provide detailed information, but I found a wonderful guide for you to read from a fellow blogger which will give you great tips on how to prepare and what to expect at the auction.
Tsukiji is an ideal place to discover the local charm of old sushi and sashimi restaurants and indulge on a a sushi-filled breakfast. Where can you eat good sushi around here? I’d say anywhere, since there is such an abundance of small or big counters serving up the fresh morsels of catch of that day. However, if you are a gourmand and don’t mind lining up for a few hours in return for an outstanding meal, I’d recommend heading to Uogashi Yokocho in the inner market, that’s where the most popular small sushi-yas are lined up back-to-back. I had a fantastic sushi at Yamazaki sushi-ya which I would not hesitate to recommend and in fact have revisited the second time!
As a general tip, I highly recommend you arrive to the market at 7 a.m. and line up for sushi first. By 9 a.m. you should be done with your meal and will be able to head straight into the market across the street.
If you are not willing to wait in line at all or have a sit-down meal, then I recommend to browse the alleys of the outer market where you can sample a lot of snacks on the go, anything from grilled fish and meat on the skewers and delicious tamago to fresh oysters and uni straight from the shells!
Get a Japanese chef’s knife as a souvenir
While Kappabashi-dori is a great place to shop for kitchenware, Tsukiji Outer Market has a few old-school knife shops which you might consider visiting. Japan is probably the top maker of knives in the entire world as their knives hold the edge a lot better due to hard steel. It’s not surprising as the artistry and sophistication of Japanese cuisine really demands the highest quality knives. You can not only choose a knife of your liking, but also have it hand-engraved with your name written in Kanji. I think it would make a great useful souvenir or a gift! One of the most highly regarded shops is Masamoto Tsukiji located in the outer market, an old world knife shop which has been around 1891 and is currently owned by the 5th generation of the family.
Visit before the Market Relocates
In November 2016 Tsukiji market will relocate and officially open in its new location, where tourists will no longer be allowed to browse around the stalls. So definitely take advantage and visit this quintessential market before it moves.
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Train stations: Tsukiji Station on Hibiya line and Tsukijishijo on Toei Oedo Line
Do you like visiting local markets? Which one was the most memorable?
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