Tsukiji Fish market visit was eye-opening on so many levels. Not all these levels were good ones. If you or anyone you know is going for the sake of seeing the auction here are my tips on bracing yourself for the experience.
In the end, our visit to Tsukiji Fish market auction was somewhat a disappointment. I heard so much about it. Did my research and still ended up exhausted and kind of annoyed. Read why below.
Please note that this is the review for the famous Auction and not Tsukiji market overall.
In my case third time was the charm. We did come very early, at 12 a.m. I did not want to chance it since we already tried to come here twice. Once we were late by 30 min and another time it was closed in January.
Are you in Tokyo for the first time? Head to this post for navigation, accommodation and more tips.
Tips on getting there and what to expect:
1. Ask your hotel to call the market head office to make sure it is open and running. It might be closed for renovation, holiday or any other reason. There is nothing worse than getting up in wee hours and coming to a closed market when only taxis operate. You have to check the schedule if it works at all. The market doesn’t work two days out of 7.
2. If you are going there, come earlier. When we came at 2.30 there were 6 people already waiting in line. My friends and I came to the market grounds at 12 because subway stops working at 1 a.m. taxi are way too expensive so we found Denny’s and waited there.
The restaurant is a much better looking and tastier version than it’s American cousin. I was surprised because of the choice and variety.
3. Wear comfy clothes and be prepared to wait for more than 2 hours. We came in the waiting room at 3 am and waited for the auction until 5.25 am.
4. I mean it, prepare. Extra battery for your phone, a sitcom mini-series or a book to read. All will make the time pass by quicker. I, for example, was typing away this article because the memories were fresh and the data plan ran out.
Lots of people gave up and just slept on the floor because it was exhausting to wait all this time at these hours.
5. Have some sushi and make sure the visit was worth the wait. After the auction is done you can go to one of the several open restaurants at the market. Prices are not cheap and the line ups are huge.
All these people who slept on the floor next to you are now also hungry and want to validate their time that they took waiting, sleeping, and watching.
6. Watch yourself! it is an operating market so cars, trolleys, and other machinery rummaging around unapologetically.
In general, the tour is not a tour at all because you are bombarded with messages and notices of not filming, not yelling, not doing this and that and constantly to be quiet. They do not offer any extra information besides of what you see in front of you.
After the visit, I got the feeling that locals dread or do not look forward to tourists or outside visitors being there.
The whole auction takes place in a cold room and lasts about 3 minutes. If I knew that beforehand I would not have come.
Was it worth it?
Not really, no. On our mischievous first try of getting to the market, when we were late, we ate at one of the restaurants. That was amazing!
Their sushi was nothing like I have ever experienced. The restaurant was super small so the atmosphere was very homey like.
Would I recommend going to the Tsukiji Market Auction?
If you are avid fishermen or a person in the industry then maybe yes. Otherwise, come to one of the restaurants at 7 am, when the subway starts working, and actually enjoy yourself in a cozy, warm, and welcoming atmosphere. If you go to the auction then prepare to lose one day because of the sleepless night.
It is my humble opinion that it is not worth it and that one can enjoy a tour around the market, shops, and a restaurant with fresh sushi at normal hours.
Please note that Tsukiji Fish market restaurants work till 9 a.m. and only accept cash!