Don't miss the chance to experience the sights and smells on offer at the world's biggest fish market.
When in Tokyo, foodies from across the world set their alarm clocks extra-early to make sure they're in with a chance of seeing the world's largest wholesale seafood market with their own eyes and to observe the chaotic and loud frenzy of activity. Spread across 23 hectares, approximately two million kilos of fish, from hundreds of different species, changes hands at the market daily – an amazing one out of every five fish caught in the world.
In recent years, the frozen bluefin tuna auction has become a popular attraction for tourists, drawing large crowds, which the traders considered disruptive. In response, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government now only allows the first 120 people to view the auction. Visitors are admitted from 5 a.m., but many people start lining up at around 3 a.m. If you’re lucky enough to get in, flash photography isn’t allowed. Children aren’t allowed in either and it is not permitted to touch any of the fish. If you do, the market sellers will call security. You will also need to wear suitable footwear. Sandals and high heels are not to be worn. When you arrive, register at the Fish Information Center at Kachidoki gate
These days the auction sells about 100 cases of fish, a decline compared to past years. It's mostly high value fish that are brought to Tsukiji for auction: this January, a 222-kilo tuna sold for a record US$1.7 million. Ultra-expensive fish is auctioned and then quickly flown off to the world's most expensive restaurants while cheaper types and cuts bypass the market altogether and go directly to supermarkets.
After a visit, it is traditional to enjoy a sushi breakfast. Unsurprisingly, all the restaurants around Tsukiji have great seafood, so choose one with the shortest queues.
It's worth pointing out that Tsukiji Market is earmarked for relocation in 2016, so visit soon before the experience changes dramatically. The market can be found in Chuo district above Tsukijishijo station on the Oedo subway line. Tsukiji station on the Hibiya subway line is a 10 minute walk away.