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How to Visit the Tokyo Fish Market

I don’t much like fish and definitely hate the smell of fish.  But I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the Tokyo (Tsukiji) fish market during a recent business trip to Japan.  The fish is so fresh that the market doesn’t smell and the shops serve up fresh fish dishes that are to die for – even for a non-fish lover.  The only catch is that the market gets going at 5am and there aren’t any great instructions on how to get the most out of your visit.

The 5am part is no problem because your jet lag will wake you up at 3am at the latest.  And I’ve outlined a brief review of how to navigate the market below:

To get to the market, take a taxi – it will make sure you are dropped off at the entrance of the market.  Unfortunately, there are no signs on the entrance of the market – it just kind of looks like an airplane hangar met a toll collection plaza.  Walk into the airplane hangar and just keep walking.  You’ll quickly notice the fish traders driving around in motorized carts.  Keep walking until you get to the end of the covered hangar.  As soon as you see daylight, look to the left – if you walk in this direction for 10 to 50 meters, you’ll see the restaurants on your left.  We’ll get to the restaurants later, but its important to take note of this junction before you get too deep into the market.  Now, to visit the rest of the market, keep walking in the direction that you were walking in initially – straight.  Keep going straight, through all the shops, styrofoam packaging, straight, straight, straight.  Until you hit a T-junction and you are facing a wall of off-yellow garage doors.  If you peer through the windows of the doors, you’ll see the tuna auctions going on inside.  Chances are the security guard won’t let you look because it is his job and he’ll politely escort you out of the fish market area and back to the restaurants.  Since the Tohoku Earthquake, the tuna auctions have been CLOSED to visitors.

Back in the restaurant area, you can just stand at the edge of the fish market area and see the enormous tuna being carved up or the odd sea creatures oozing out of their boxes.  When you are done with the market, I recommend you go to the back left corner for restaurants.  By back left, I mean the leftward direction you looked when you walked in.  All the way in the back corner there is a beef restaurant, which is where the auction participants and employees eat.  It is also the cheapest eats in the complex.  About 350 Yen for beef on rice.  You probably also want to try the raw fish.  There are lots of restaurants in this area; they all seemed the same to me and all have roughly the same prices – expensive prices.  I’d go for a bowl of tsukedon because you get far more raw fish than in a sashimi or sushi order for the same price.  Expect to pay 2,300 Yen for any fish dish; there is no way around it, the restaurants have minimum orders.

If you found this helpful and see that the tuna auctions have opened, please do leave me a comment.

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  1. Tsukiji Auction Reopens? | The Wrong Sox

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