Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market – 23 Photos that Will Encourage You to Go

By Mark Wiens 7 Comments
Outer Tsukiji market
Approaching Tsukiji Market

The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the most important market in the city – it’s where the seafood distribution goes down.

Due to the local importance and magnitude of the market, it also happens to be one of the most well known attractions in Tokyo; It’s a place just about every tourist who visits the city comes to see.

The actual tuna auction only takes place early in the morning and only 120 tourists per day are allowed to enter so they don’t disrupt the real business.

So since public transportation didn’t open until 5 am, and because I would have had to line up starting at 4 am to stand a chance to get in, and the only way to get there was by taxi at that time – which I honestly didn’t think I could afford – I didn’t make it to the actual auction (Luckily I had visited the Honolulu tuna auction a few weeks earlier).

But, even if you don’t get to see the auction, you can still show up at about 9 am to browse through the seafood wholesale area, and also to eat.

The sad thing is, the Tsukiji fish market will be re-locating to a new location sometime in 2015 in order to make room for a stadium I think. It’s very unfortunate.

I just wanted to share some of my favorite photos from walking around Tsukiji fish market.

1. Approaching Tsukiji Market

The outer edge of the official Tsukiji Market is also a wonderful place to wander around, with some great restaurants like Choku Soba Ramen – and old skool and delicious ramen street food stall.

Nakaya sushi
An amazing breakfast!

2. Donburi at Nakaya

I arrived to Tsukiji fish market at about 8 AM, but the wholesale area actually doesn’t open for tourists until 9 AM.

So one of the main reasons to visit the market, is for the chance to have some sashimi or sushi for breakfast, and there’s no way I was going to miss out on this opportunity.

The most famous place to eat sushi at Tsukiji fish market, is a restaurant called Sushi Dai.

And while I really wanted to eat there, because everyone says it’s absolutely stunning, I simply didn’t have three hours to wait in line, so I opted for restaurant known as Nakaya, a place that’s also pretty famous for their donburi sashimi rice bowls.

It only took about 15 minutes of waiting in line, before I was able to grab a seat at Nakaya. The staff weren’t all that friendly, but the food was definitely insanely good. I ordered a donburi with slices of tuna belly, uni sea urchin, and salmon roe.

Tokyo fish market
Motorbikes and unique fish cart foklifts

3. Getting around Tsukiji

Motorbikes and unique forklift trucks, are the vehicles of choice when it comes to navigating the Tsukiji fish market.

When walking around the market, you’ve got to be on your guard, so you don’t end up getting hit by a fish cart!

I guess you could call this, “sashimi on hoof”

4. Tuna on Wooden Pushcart

As I mentioned before, it can be quite a challenge to actually visit the real tuna fish auction in Tokyo, but the good news is, if you just visit the Tsukiji fish market wholesale area, you’ll still be able to see plenty of giant sized tunas that were traded at the auction in the morning.

The one pictured here, was pretty huge, and sitting on top of a wooden pushcart.

Tuna in Tokyo
It was really cool to see these men cut up a big tuna with ease

5. Tuna Spine

One of the coolest things to see at the market, is when a crew of fishmongers are slicing up a giant tuna.

They even have special swords, which are a couple meters in length, which they use to make a clean-cut down the side of the spine of the fish.

Some of the vendors are very friendly, and don’t mind at all if you take photos.

However it’s still very important to respect everyone of the market, not use a flash with your camera, and stay fully out-of-the-way of those working.


6. Tuna Steak

The hunks of high grade tuna could cost a fortune, but I was seriously tempted!

I would love to take a bite of that right now!

7. Red Slab

Some of the vendors, you can just tell, specialize in nothing but the highest quality of tuna – It’s really a beautiful thing.

This slab of dark red tuna was so delicious looking, and illuminated by those wonderful lights, that I actually wanted take a bite out of it right there, no seasoning needed.

Tsukiji fish market
Wandering through Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market

8. Lanes of Tsukiji Market – Wholesale section

Being the biggest seafood market in the world, you can literally spend hours browsing all of the amazingly fresh seafood available.

The wholesale distribution area seems to go on forever, and there are countless vendors, each of them appears to specialize in a certain category of seafood.

After negotiating, deciding how to cut it

9. Negotiating

Again, tuna is one of the most prized items sold at Tsukiji fish market.

There are so many different grades and qualities, and even parts of the fish. The tuna belly, which is whitish in color, is a favorite for many, while the dark red meat is also popular.

I don’t know how much these guys were about to spend on this big chunk of tuna, but I really wanted to be their friends, and head home with them for the feast!

Fresh fish in Tokyo
Fresh fish

10. Fresh Fish

Japanese food relies on quality and freshness, and at the market you’ll see fish that look extremely fresh, some of them still swimming in aquariums or buckets of ice.

Tsukiji fish market
Small fish are good too

11. Smaller Fish

Along with the giant tuna and other impressive creatures, there were also other vendors that specialized in smaller and cheaper fish.

Being a fish lover, I also really love to eat the smaller ones as well.

Tokyo market
Do you know what that red fish is?

12. Fish I’d Never Seen

I’ve been to quite a few fish markets in my life, including the one in Seoul, but still at the Tsukiji fish market, I saw quite a few seafood creatures that I had never seen before.

That red fish looked like one of those long skinny balloons that you blow up and twist into a shape… anyone know what that fish is?

Hokkaido scallops
Cracking open scallops

13. Cracking Open a Scallop

Scallops are one of my favorite items from the sea, and this man was prying them out of their shells with ease.

octopus in Japan
Octopus – one of my favorites

14. Curly Octopus

Another favorite of mine is octopus. Whether if be grilled or curried, I just love the texture and flavor of fresh octopus.

Tsukiji fish market
Scallop Inside?

15. Scallop Inside?

This thing looked exactly like a scallop on the inside, but the outside almost looked like a giant mussel shell, so I’m still a little confused as to what it was.

But I can say it looked meaty and delicious!

The Horned Turban
The Horned Turban

16. The Horned Turban

I didn’t get to eat any of these when I was in Japan, but I wish I would have.

They are often called horned turban or a turbo cornutus officially, but I think in Japanese they are known as sazae. These sea snails are often grilled and eaten.

Transparent Shrimp
Transparent Shrimp

17. Transparent Shrimp

Even with some familiar seafoods like shrimp, there were so many different varieties and types. These shrimp for instance, were semi-transparent, and had unique red designs on their shells.

I think they may have been famous Hokkaido shrimp, but I’m really not sure.

dried fish
Dried salted fish

18. Dried Fish in the Outer Market

Although most of the seafood in the wholesale section of the Tsukiji fish market is fresh, you’ll find vendors selling dried fish in certain areas, and in the outer market.

Dried anchovies
Dried anchovies

19. Dried Anchovies

Along with fresh sashimi and sushi, little tiny salted and dried fish like anchovies, can be extremely tasty as well.

I’m a big fan.

shopping in Japan
Doing some shopping

20. Shopping for Seafood

Some local Japanese people go to Tsukiji fish market to buy seafood for their restaurant or business, and others just go to purchase ingredients for themselves.

If only I had had a kitchen at the hotel I was staying at in Tokyo, I would have definitely purchased many things, maybe I would have even spent a fortune on fresh seafood – and it would’ve been totally worth it.

Fish in Japan
The fish odds and ends in a wooden box

21. Seafood Odds and Ends

This guy was chopping up fish, mostly some kind of eel, from a table full of an assortment of odds and ends.

Tsukiji fish market
Wandering around Tsukiji fish market

22. Just Wandering

You could wander around the wholesale are of Tsukiji fish market for a few hours and not get bored.

There are so many incredible creatures from the sea to discover, and so much action to experience.

Japanese street food
Seafood Street Food

23. Seafood Street Food

Just as I was about to leave the Tsukiji fish market and move on for the day, I noticed a man selling a scallop in its shell, topped with a number of other seafoods, and flame torched to cook it.

It was one of those things that I saw, and I simply had to eat, there was no holding back.

The base scallop was topped with an oyster, uni sea urchin, and something white that I had never tried before… turned out to be a delicacy known as “shirako” or cod sperm. Check out the video here.

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is not only an amazing place to discover seafood and eat, but it’s also a glimpse into the importance of seafood in Japanese cuisine and culture.

Though the market will relocate, I hope it will rebuild and retain its importance in the Tokyo culture.

Have you been to Tsukiji fish market?

To check out my full Tokyo travel guide, click here.