November 1, 2017

How to visit Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

I wanted to see the famous tuna auction in Tsukiji Fish Market but my first time there, I woke up late.

Then there's news that the market will be relocated to another site in November 2016 to make way for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. So I took the chance to visit it one last time before they moved (it is delayed and now it is expected to happen in Autumn 2018 at the earliest).

My first attempt: My hotel was in Tokyo Bay area so it was quite near to the market. I walked about 2km from my hotel to the market at 4.30am. I thought the timing was OK but when I arrived, the security personnel told me the numbers had finished at 3.30am. T_T It was a Saturday btw.


Second attempt: I stayed at another area so I couldn't walk to the market. Luckily I got a day off from the office so I could avoid going on a weekend. The night before, I took the last train to Shimbashi and parked myself at Jonathan's, a 24-hour family restaurant about 10-15 minutes walk from the market. At around 2am, I walked to the market and there was already about 30 people in queue.

 Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate


So here's step on how to get access to the tuna auction.

Basically there are 2 sessions for the tuna auction. The first group of 60 visitors will be admitted to the auction between 5.25am and 5.50am, while a second group of 60 visitors will be admitted between 5.50am and 6.15am.

Visitors who wish to see the auction have to be the first 120 visitors at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate. Make sure you know the actual place for the queue to avoid wasting your time wandering around the main gate and the market and risk missing a spot. You should get there at around 3am, or earlier.

Also, do check out the market calendar. The market is closed on Sundays and some Wednesdays.

Trains will only be operational from 5am, so your choices are;
* take a taxi from your hotel.
* stay at a hotel near to the market and walk.
* both choices above maybe expensive so if you're on a budget, just take the last train and lepak at the 24-hour restaurant, cafe, or karaoke room nearby. 

The security personnel will distribute vests to the people in the queue. If you get the vest, it means you're in! They will distribute one vest per person so if you're planning to visit with a group of friends, make sure everyone is present. No such thing as tolong beratur ok.

I was no 32 in queue 

in the waiting room

Once you get the vest, you'll enter an empty waiting room. Bags are allowed in the auction viewing area but as the area is small, it is advisable to bring only small bags. There's no chairs so everybody just sit on the floor. There's absolutely nothing to do in the waiting room so bring a book, cards or whatever to fill your time. 

I waited in the room almost 2 hours before one market guy came and entertained us with stories and fascinating insights about how the auction is done, how to check and choose the tuna etc.

At 5 something, we got ready and were brought to the auction viewing area. My tips; walk at the front of the queue when you're heading there so you get a good spot in the viewing area.

Be careful on the way there as forklifts and trucks often pass you.

 entrance to the auction area

The viewing area is just a walking path and with 60 people, it was a little cramped and people at the back had limited views. Please remember that flash photography is not allowed.

  choosing the tuna

Before the auction begins, buyers check the condition and quality of the tuna. They use a tool to take meat from near the tail, and judge its quality by pinching it between their fingers. Professional buyers can tell how fatty the tuna is just by how the meat seems to melt from the heat of their fingers. Additionally, the tuna fish have slight incisions on the surface near their tails so that buyers can inspect how the meat looks. 

 frozen tuna


The auctions begin when the bell rings. Buyers will then swarm around the whole-seller to do their bidding. Following cues by the seller, buyers use their fingers to show their price offers. In turn, the seller will mirror these movements, showing the current highest bid. The highest bidder wins the right to buy the tuna being auctioned.

*pix from google

The auction is very fast. A single auction might end in just a few seconds. The auctions begin with the smallest fish and progressively move up to the largest fish. Once the auction finished, follow the instructions and head to the exit. 

Now you can have breakfast at one of the many sushi restaurants within the inner market. Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are good choices if you don't mind the queue. My Sushi Dai experience here.

No comments: