Never have I been more awake and determined at 3.30am. That’s how early we got up for the tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market. After missing it on my last trip, the tuna auction was top on our Tokyo itinerary this time around.
We arrived just after 4am and were the last few to make it for the first session (there are a total of 2 sessions). Just behind us, a queue was already forming for the second session.
Each visitor was given a vest and a note of the auction & market map.
We were then led to the auction area.
The tuna were categorized by size. Seeing them all neatly lined in rows was quite a sight.
Each fish is sliced near the tail, exposing the flesh.
Buyers carefully inspected the fish fat content and quality of the meat to decide on the value of the fish, shining a torchlight at the exposed meat. They would sometimes chip off a small chunk of the flesh and rub it in their hands.
The auction is conducted by a brown-capped guy ringing a bell. The auction uses hand signal and is rapid fire-quick. It takes only a few seconds to sell each fish.
After the auction, each fish is marked with red paint before being carted away.
If you don’t mind getting up at ungodly hours, the tuna auction is well worth waking up for.
Visitors are limited to a maximum of 120 people on a first-come-first-serve basis, and divided into two sessions – 5.25am and 5.50am. Registration for visitors is at the Fish Information Center at Kachidoki Gate on Harumi Street. There are two gates, so make sure you go to the right one.
If you’re game for the tuna auction, it is best to book a hotel nearby. This will save time and transportation cost (the train starts only around 5am and cab fare is typically expensive). We stayed at Ginza Capital Hotel, just 10 minutes’ walk away from Tsukiji market and is reasonably priced (got it for RM350 / USD115 per night via Expedia).
More information in this link: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
Opening hours for Tsukiji Market: Outer Market – varies by shop, typically 5:00am to 2:00pm. The wholesale area is open to visitors after 9:00am
Closed on Sundays, national holidays and some Wednesdays. Avoid the closing days in red in the calendar link here.
Update: Tuna auction is closed from 1 December 2012 and will reopen to public on 21 January 2013. The outer market is still open to public.
If you’re planning to visit the market in 2013, check out the official market calendar here and avoid those days highlighted in red or purple.