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The Tsukiji Inner Fish Market – known as ‘Japan’s Kitchen’ – is no more. Now, if you want to see Tokyo’s famous fish auction – and eat delectably fresh sashimi – you’ve got to head to Toyosu.
Developmental constraints, health and safety concerns and general wear and tear gradually rendered Tokyo fish market’s original Tsukiji home unfit for purpose. The move to Toyosu was not without controversy or delays (a two-year delay, in fact) but the legendary auction is back in the swing of things at its sleek new facility and open to visitors – very early-rising visitors, that is. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit.
Tsukiji Market continues to exist, but the major difference is that now it’s more a general food market than the lively seafood hub it once was. The vendors who occupied the exterior of the market are still in action, and its labyrinthian network of narrow alleyways continues to offer some of the best local snack foods in the city. So it’s still worth visiting, especially for Tsukiji Shouro, a tamagoyaki (fried egg) corner stall whose omelette sandwich is so famous it typically sells out by lunchtime.
Toyosu is sterile by comparison – but depending on what you’re after, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The organisation of the market area is carefully considered for tourists: everything is a little more segregated, viewing platforms are highly barricaded and there are only about 40 food stalls within the confines of the wholesale fish buildings.
The Toyosu location is 1.7 times the size of its predecessor; it’s slick, and the designers have made a conscious effort to incorporate more tourist attractions, such as gift stores and multilingual signage. If you’re in the market for a fish auction, Toyosu is clearly the place. However, if it’s atmosphere you value, Tsukiji’s still got it.
The Tsukiji Fish Auction has long been one of Tokyo’s most famous foodie attractions, and Toyosu is doing its best to live up to its legacy. The auction is held in the fish wholesale building, easily accessed by foot from Shijō-mae Station. The auction takes place between around 5.30am and 6.30am, depending on the day’s activities; it’s best to get there in plenty of time to avoid missing out.
The public auction area is located just beyond the information desk and through a display room with feature exhibits on the history of the auction, complete with a life-size replica of the biggest bluefin tuna ever sold at the previous Tsukiji auction. (That tuna weighed half a ton and was sold in 1986.)
There are two vantage points from which to witness the auction. The first is an enclosed viewing gallery located a floor above the auction area, offering a bird’s-eye view. This is the most comfortable and accessible place to witness the action. There’s also an observation deck on the floor below, if you want to get a little closer. To access this lower floor, guests must apply about a month in advance; you can do that via the Toyosu website. If you’d rather leave all the admin to professionals, consider booking a tour; there are a number of companies who offer special-access tours.
Toyosu market crawls around Shijō-mae Station, which is on the Yurikamome, an elevated train line that passes through Odaiba and connects Shimbashi Station – a major stop on the JR city loop Yamanote Line – with Toyosu Market.
If you’re travelling from Shinjuku, Shibuya or Tokyo Station on the Yamanote Line, the easiest and most direct way to get there is to ride the line to Yūrakuchō Station, then switch to Yūrakuchō Subway Line to Toyosu. Get off at Shijō-mae Station, take subway exit 7 and head to Yurikamome Subway. Take the Yurikamome Line for two stops to Shijō-mae Station and you’ll be in the centre of the action – there are yellow maps dotted around the station to help direct you.
If you want to guarantee that you’ll get to the market in time for the auction, consider catching the Toei Bus (都営バス 市01) from Shimbashi Station at around 5am. This will get you to Toyosu Market Station (豊洲市場) within 25 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic. Note that many buses use kanji characters, so keep a close eye to avoid hopping on the wrong route.
It may not be ideal for those rushing to witness the auction, but for a more scenic journey to Toyosu, you can also get there by boat. The Himiko Tokyo Boat Cruise travels from Odaiba Seaside Park to Toyosu and takes about 20 minutes; a ticket for this cruise costs 780 yen (£5.50) each way.
When you’re ready to eat, the third level of Building 6 is the best place to grab a bite. On this floor is where you’ll find the majority of the market’s restaurants, which includes Sushi Dai, arguably one of the most famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Here, hungry punters line up way before the crack of dawn to secure a table, which is warranted, given that the place often sells out before 11am. The chef’s recommendation course is the most popular here, and it costs 4,000 yen (£28).
Those who don’t like to wait might go for a seafood donburi – a bowl of seafood on rice – at Nakaya Tsukiji, on the same floor. It’ll set you back about 200 yen (£1.40). Neighbouring outlet Sushi Masa The Impression is another excellent option. It’s a little more luxe: depending on what you order, it’ll cost about 2,500 to 7,500 yen (£17.50 to £52.50) per person.
Beyond the seafood, there are also curry and ramen outlets, which cater a little more toward the workers than to tourists – but anyone is more than welcome to eat there.
Head over to the rooftop of Building 6 at sunrise to admire one of the most spectacular scenes of Tokyo city. Open to the public and relatively easy to access, this vantage point affords views of the Olympic athletes’ village (under construction), Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge and – when the sky is clear – Mount Fuji.
If you’re hungry for more info, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for the QR codes on display scattered throughout the market. Easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, these codes are really useful, offering multilingual information on all the current happenings around Toyosu.
Beyond Tsukiji and Toyosu, Tokyo has plenty of other excellent food markets worth visiting on your culinary journey. For a list of some of Culture Trip’s favourites, you can check out our shortlist of accessible inner-city favourites here.