Sneaking into the Tsukiji Fish Market

Sneaking into the Tsukiji Fish Market

What is the Tsukiji Fish Market? 

Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world, located in the middle of Tokyo near the Ginza district, although this is set to move either winter 2017 or 2018.  So you are going to want to hurry if you still want to see the historic original market. It is an incredible place to visit, especially if you are a food lover, photographer, love markets or you love visiting places of culture. It is also free to visit! However, if you want to see the tuna auction, you will need to get up at the crack of dawn.

Tsukiji fish market map


When is it open? 

Wednesdays are open once a month and Sundays are always closed. Every other day of the week should be open, but it is important to check the Tsukiji Market calendar before visiting. The wholesale area opens for tourists at 10am and the outer market and restaurants open at 5am

Seeing the Tuna Auction

For many, the main reason for visiting the Tsukiki fish market is to watch the Tuna Auction. However, it is not easy to do this. You will need to wake up very early! There is a limit of 120 people per day in which the market can accommodate, and as a high tourist attraction, it makes it very difficult to be one of the 120. The auctions are between 5:25 - 5:50 am and 5:50am - 6:15am. It works on a first come first serve basis and many will start lining up hours before 5am. Flash photography is not allowed and you are only allowed to view the auction from the designated area. 

tsukiji fish market

My experience

Waking up early and missing the metro-train
I was up at 4am and determined I was going to see the tuna auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market. All ready to go, I left my couch-surfing hosts home and set out to use the metro train which leaves at 5am. I was staying close to the market and was only a small metro ride away, I sprinted onto the train and sat down, only to realise I had got on the wrong one! Oh no! how could I have been so stupid?! I got off as soon as I could, but had to wait a further 20 minutes for the right train to come along and realisation that I might not make it began to set in.

I eventually arrived at Tsukiji at 5:25am and already all of the 120 places had been taken for the tuna auction. I begged for them to let me in, but it was no use. I felt a lump in my throat appear and I wanted to cry. I was tired and so disappointed that I had arrived too late. It was the last day I could visit the market as it was Sunday tomorrow and then I was leaving.

Sneaking into the off-limit area
My disappointment suddenly turned into determination. I had not got up this early to miss seeing the tuna auction! I had no idea what had came over me, but I began looking around the market, searching for a way in so I could see the market. I noticed a load of deliverers and fishermen using an entrance at the back and walked hastily over to them. At only 5 foot 2 I snuck into the middle of the fishermen groups and walked inside, now inside the off-limits area. I felt like I was some kind of secret agent or something...I had to move fast if I wanted to see the tuna auction, but I also had to avoid the security that was looming around. 

tsukiji fish market

Inside was amazing and like nothing I had ever seen before. Fish was quite literally everywhere and fishermen were busy filleting all kinds of fish that I had never seen before. I zig-zagged my way through the different areas, snapping as many photos as I could and hiding from the security patrolling the area. I then approached some fishermen who were sawing up some smaller tuna's and I couldn't resist but ask for their picture and have a little chat with them. I was relieved at how lovely they all were!

tsukiji fish market

I had gotten a little carried away with exploring the off-limit area that the time was now 6:20, meaning I had missed the main hub of the auction. I finally found where the Tuna auction had taken place, and fortunately all the tuna was still there, lined up and ready to be taken away. Again, I began taking photos as quickly as I could, but it wasn't long until I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see two angry security guards and was escorted out of the off-limit premises. 

tsukiji fish market tuna auction

Back into the main area, I was watched like a hawk by security, who were now standing at all entrances like their life depended on it. Either way, I didn't need to go in there now. I had seen all I had wanted to see, and what an experience it was! 

Breakfast in Tsukiji
It was time for some breakfast and I had heard that sushi at the Tsukiji fish market was the best in the world! So I headed over to an incredibly long queue to wait for some breakfast. However, I then came to realise that the price for eating it was incredibly expensive, and as a budget traveller, not something I could afford! Why did I need to eat the best in the world anyway? That would only make cheaper sushi taste rubbish. So instead, it was some delicious onigiri at a local stall. It was a heck of a lot cheaper and still tasted amazing. 

tsukiji fish market

Rules to Follow 

I know I broke quite a few of them! But at the time I was unaware there were actually that many. These are some of the rules you should be aware of:

  • Don't use flash photography 
  • Don't enter the wholesale Market until 10am
  • Don't wear high-heels or flipflops
  • Don't enter the off-limit areas 
  • Don't bring large bags or suitcases
  • Don't obstruct traffic
  • Don't bring small children or pets
  • Don't smoke
  • Don't touch anything 

prepare to be escorted out if you break any of the rules!

More Photo's

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