HOME CULTURE Tsukiji - What Time Is The Best To Visit?

Tsukiji – What Time Is The Best To Visit?

Tsukiji is an area of Tokyo located down the banks of the Sumida river. Its name is synonymous with the Tsukiji fish market – the largest seafood and fresh produce market in the whole world. Although there are a couple of other attractions in the area (such as the Hongan-ji temple and the shitamachi-reminiscent backstreets), Tsukiji is best known for the market.
Tsukiji fish market is one of the top tourist attractions in any Tokyo guidebook. Considered the largest fresh produce market in the world, as well as the place where premium-quality fish are sold at early-morning auctions for thousands of dollars per head, Tsukiji is definitely a sight worth seeing. However, many foreigners still choose to skip it, as the idea of staying up all night just to gawk at fresh seafood isn’t exactly their definition of a great time. Today, we are here to tell you everything you need to know about the Tsukiji fish market, how to enjoy it, and, most importantly, when is the best time to visit it – so that you don’t miss the famous tuna auctions, can grab a fresh sushi breakfast, and get some time to browse the market itself.

1. When is the best time to visit Tsukiji market?

Tuna innards at Tsukiji fish market

Tsukiji fish market sashimi restaurant
The short answer is as soon as possible. That is because of the Tsukiji fish market relocation project, which plans to move the market to a larger, and more convenient location in Toyosu. The plan has been proposed in November 2016 and has since been postponed a couple of times. The latest information on that says that the move is finally supposed to happen in fall 2018. We suggest you don’t rely on another delay of the move and visit the Tsukiji fish market as soon as possible – as it might not be there the next time you get to visit Japan. The Tsukiji location has a bit of historical vibe to it, as the market has been there since 1935, something you will not find in the new Toyosu location.

2. What is the best season for visiting Tsukiji fish market?

Tsukiji fish market chirashidon
Tsukiji fish market sashimi platter
Box of sea urchin at Tsukiji fish market
Japan tries to make the most out of every season, and that applies to produce as well. In other words, every season has its highlights at the Tsukiji fish market. For instance, true gourmands will tell you that winter is the best season to visit, as you get to try delicacies like shirako, fugu, and ankimo. However, those might not be for everyone’s tastes, and if you prefer lighter and fresher flavors, perhaps spring or summer would be a better bet for you. Again, don’t postpone your visit for too long just for experiencing certain flavors you know you like, and let the market surprise you with the best in-season flavors Japan has to offer.

3. When is the best time of the day to visit Tsukiji fish market?

Tuna auctions at Tsukiji fish market
Bluefin tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market
Tuna for display at the auctions
There are two main ‘time slots’ for visiting the Tsukiji fish market, depending on what you plan to do and see there. The tuna auctions are a popular tourist attraction, and they are held every single day, save for Sundays and Wednesdays. Some people aren’t particularly interested in them and just want to experience the market itself, perhaps buy something from the vendors, and have breakfast in one of the sushi restaurants located within the premises. Generally, the visiting hours are between 3 am and 6 am.

4. When is best to show up?

Tsukiji fish market vendor
Early morning at Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market at 3 am
The market’s opening hours are between 3:30 and 6:00. During this time, two groups of people, up to 60 people per group, are allowed to enter the market and get to see the tuna auctions. The auctions are generally held after 5 am, and visitors are allowed in for 20-minute time slots. Now, an important aspect to remember when visiting the Tsukiji fish market is that the experience is absolutely free, except instances when you opt for a guide. This means that the market operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and if you show up too late they will deny your entrance. All this to say that even if you plan to get into the first group of people entering the market at 3 am, you will have to come much earlier – even two hours in advance if it’s the peak tourist season. This puts many people off from visiting the fish market, as not everyone is ready to sacrifice a whole night of sleep, or drop up to a hundred bucks on a taxi ride just for this experience.

5. How to reach the Tsukiji fish market?

Tsukiji fish market stalls
Streets leading to the Tsukiji fish market

If, after everything mentioned above, you still want to pursue your dreams of visiting the market, we’ll tell you how to enjoy it – without dropping more money than necessary.
First and foremost, admit and accept the fact that you’ll have to be up really early, or pull an all-nighter for this experience. Yes, you will be tired. Yes, you might need to drop by your hotel for a nap afterward. However, what you don’t necessarily need to do is drop stellar amounts of money on a taxi ride from your hotel to Tsukiji in the early morning hours. Your best bet is to spend the night somewhere within walking distance from the market – people recommend manga cafes and karaoke bars if you’re on a budget, but you can also opt for a capsule hotel, or even a business hotel if you want to catch some Z’s. Even the most expensive option, which is the business hotel, should not set you back more than $60, which is generally less than you’d be spending on a taxi from the most popular areas in central Tokyo.

6. How to enjoy the market?

Tuna hirashidon from one of Tsukiji fish market's restaurants
Chirashidon with produce from the Tsukiji fish market
Hongon-ji temple in the Tsujiki area
If you’re willing to go early in the morning to see the tuna auctions and the inner market, make sure you show up earlier (around 30 minutes to one hour) than the time slot you’re going for. Bring warm clothes, as the tuna auctions are held in unheated rooms so as to keep the fish frozen. Don’t bring your best clothes, and stick with comfortable shoes, as you will have to wait standing for a while before they let you into the auction room. Bring a book or an external battery for your phone in case you get bored of waiting. If you can’t really buy anything from the market, as you’d have nothing to do with fresh seafood in your hotel room, make sure you grab breakfast at one of the famous Tsukiji restaurants. Their specialties range from sushi and sashimi to Italian cuisine, and you will get to enjoy what is probably the freshest, and most delicious, seafood in the world.

The Tsukiji area is best known for the Tsukiji fish market. It is a great spot to visit during all seasons, and the best time of the day to show up is between 3 am and 4 am. After you’ve seen the tuna auctions, you’re free to roam through the inner market, sample the restaurants, and even enjoy other attractions around the Tsukiji area.