If you find yourself in Tokyo, or the Asian continent for that matter, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t do the early morning wake-up and head to Tsukiji Market. Located in central Tokyo the market is the largest fish and seafood market in the world. Mon- Sat, 5 AM- 2 PM (though the vast majority of the action dies down by 6:30), directly above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Subway Line or a five minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Subway Line
The tuna auctions begin at 5:20 AM each day, after which, the fresh products are distributed and shipped to the worlds best restaurants. Auctions are open to the public, but in limited capacity. Only 140 visitors are granted access each day done so on a first come basis. To catch the action, you will need to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center at Kochidoki Gate starting at 5 AM. A first group of visitors is admitted to the auction between 5:25 and 5:50, with the second group between 5:50 and 6:15.
If you aren’t awarded one of the coveted spots, not to worry, the market itself is quite the spectacle in itself. Numerous vendors hawk fish pulled from the seas that morning alongside other seafood treats. Scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers scurry around adding the to hectic vibe.
The hustle and bustle of the market can easily allow one to build quite an appetite. Luckily, for visitors to Tsujiki, this problem is easily fixed. The most authentic of restaurants are often found within the walls of the worlds markets. Tsukiji is no exception. Numerous tiny sushi shops line the streets surrounding the main market building. The lines for which start forming bright and early around the market’s peak hour of 5 AM. One of the most revered of these eateries is Sushi Dai. Having only 13 seats and a favorite of locals and tourists alike, lines here can reach two hours long. For most things, a two hour wait would result in my leaving. However, Sushi Dai is one of the well-worth-it exceptions. The sushi here even managed to change my mother from a strict non raw foods eater to sushi aficionado (read more on that dish). Mon – Sat 5 AM- 2 PM, Sushi Dai is located in Building no. 6, the third alley, the third shop on the right
Don’t have two hours to wait for some fish? Don’t want to wait two hours for some fish? No worries. The rows of narrow barracks surrounding the market house numerous and equally delicious sushi joints to hit the spot. Daiwa and Sushi-Bun are close by and also held in high regard. An omakase meal, usually 7 pieces of sushi and 1 roll with soup, at one of these establishments will run you around ¥4000 ($50 USD today) but is an experience only available in Tsukiji. Smaller portions are usually available for around ¥2900 ($38) for those on tight budgets who still want the sushi experience.
To catch the action at Tsukiji you”ll have to rally the troops and head out early. Tsukiji Market is a Japanese institution, a Tokyo sight not to be missed and a market unreplicated the world over. There is not a better way to start your day.