Tokyo Guide: Tsukiji
Tokyo Area Guide: Tsukiji 築地
Tsukiji Fish Market is the sushi mecca for visitors to Tokyo. Located about 1.5km south of Tokyo Station, Tsukiji is the most famous of the twelve locations operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market and is a venerable institution dating from 1935.
While actually not exclusively a fish market (Tsukiji also deals in fruit, vegetables and meat) it is most famous for its fish.
Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world and an estimated 17% of the world's total fish catch passes through its gates. The frantic action begins around 5am and is winding down by mid morning.
The market, where the famous early morning (5.30-6.00am) fish auction takes place, is 300m south-west of the Tsukiji 6-chome intersection on Harumi-dori avenue.
Namiyoke Inari Jinja Shrine
Look for the Namiyoke Inari Jinja Shrine, a Shinto shrine built in 1659 to protect workers from rough seas during the reclamation project that created the Tsukiji area. The Shrine is at the entrance to the market.
The streets teem with small trucks and especially turret trucks rapidly carrying produce to and fro - requiring visitors to be very watchful.
The tuna auction, which starts at 5.30am, is the main attraction for curious onlookers. The auction area can be watched - and, more to the point, listened to - from the sidelines. It is a seeming cacophony of shouts and cries, amidst which men with picks bend over huge frozen tuna inspecting them for their quality. (See video below.) No flash photography!
Tsukiji Market itself is not open every day. A list of holidays is available on the Tsukiji Market website (click on the 'Tsukiji Market Calendar' - the dates marked in red are no go) and an English guidesheet and map are also available at the market's information booth.
Adjacent to the auction area is a building full of tiny wholesale stores - more like booths - selling the freshest marine produce.
The retail side of Tsukiji on the outskirts of the market extends to the block on the other side of Harumi-dori which is also full of restaurants and stores where you can sample some of the freshest sushi available anywhere in Japan, buy produce in retail quantities, purchase culinary implements, especially knives, and get souvenirs of the market, too.
However, whether the market is open or not, Tsukiji is always buzzing with energy. The crazy maze of street stalls and restaurants is anxious to feed you its freshest and finest. Opening hours are typically from 5am to noon or mid-afternoon.
The demeanor of visitors is a perennial problem. Access has been considerably restricted because of friction between tourists and those working at Tsukiji. Please observe the following rules:
Tsukiji Honganji Temple
The impressive Indian-style Tsukiji Honganji Temple across the road from Tsukiji subway station is also worth a look for its pre-war antiqueness, its vast incense-laden, cathedral-like interior and carved golden altar. You are more than likely to see a ceremony taking place before the grand altar if you stop in.
Tsukiji Station, Hibiya Line, exit 1, Google Map; Higashi Ginza Station, Hibiya and Asakusa Lines, exit 5; and Tsukiji-ichiba Station, Oedo Line, exit A1.
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