Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

6 May

Three A.M. and the hustling hub of Tokyo’s fish market is packed with live and frozen aquatic creatures. ImageA stroll through any of the aisles is a compact lesson in marine biology with seemingly endless varieties of fish, shellfish and mollusks. ImageImageSeasoned workers methodically trim and cut while professional buyers make a invisible beelines around shops to select fine cuts for restaurants all over town. Serious sushi restaurants stick to trusted suppliers and will pay top price for a good fish.ImageImageThe tuna auction takes place at 5 am where the prize is a tuna the size of a grown person. I would not be able to tell you why one tuna fetched more than another but the record price was ¥155.4 million in 2013 for a 222 kg fish. High auction prices are typical on January 1st where the purchase of the best catch is seen as a celebration. ImageWhile you’re here, it would be a shame not to eat some sushi. There are some famed sushi restaurants around with equally famous line-ups of up to two hours. I’ve tried two less busy restaurants and the sushi was the best I have ever had. I am confident you will not be disappointed with any restaurant you choose.

ImageImageThe market is busiest until approximately 8 am when restaurant buyers have finished their procurement. If you’re not an early bird or don’t want to see the auction, I recommend arriving at Tsukiji around 8 am for sushi breakfast at a restaurant of your choice. It might feel strange eating sushi at such an early hour but one bite in and you’ll forget you ever had such a silly thought. Afterwards, head over to the wholesale area (open to tourists from 9 am on) and soak in the experience. ImageIf you want the chance to catch the action, you’ll have to arrive around 4 am. The auction is free but limited to 120 people, first-come-first-serve. The first tour for 60 people is from 5:25 to 5:45 am. The second tour is between 5:50 to 6:10 am. Due to the early hour, spend the night in the area around Tsukiji because the trains won’t run that early and a taxi ride across town will be very expensive. Tokyo Cheapo has great recommendations on places to stay the night before.


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