Tsukiji Market was probably my most visited place while I was in Tokyo. Indeed, the market has some of the best sushi restaurants in the area. However, it was not the main reason why I always find myself in there. It was more because of two unlucky events. Whilst the first visit was an utter letdown, the other one was accomplished after an epic fail first attempt.
It was my own mistake why my first visit was such a disappointment. Eager to try some sushi for breakfast, I went to Tsukiji Fish Market around seven in the morning. There was already a queue when I arrive. After two hours, it was almost my turn so a lady server approached me to ask what I wanted. I was about to get my payment and put it in my pocket when I realized I have spent all of my yen and that all I had were dollars. Regrettably, I left the queue and just explored the market.
Nonetheless, my visit was not in vain since I had the time to explore the market.
If you are not too keen of having sushi for breakfast, the outer market is teeming with shops that sell ramen, udon, onigiri and other Japanese staple foods.
Aside from that, you can also browse through an array of fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables and seafood. There are also souvenirs sold in the outer market, but they were quite expensive.Once you are in the market, you can also visit Namiyoke Inari shrine which is just 5-minute walk from Tsukiji. Patrons come to the shrine to pray for safe travels – especially by sea. It is also said that the shrine guards and protects the fishermen and the market. There is also an interesting story behind the shrine.
As Tsukiji was mostly near the ocean during the construction of the shrine, there was great difficulty in building the shrine as harsh waves continue to tear the structure down. The workers then floated an image of an Inari in order to appease the gods. After that, there were pretty much no conflicts and the shrine was finally finished. In honor of this event, the shrine was named “Namiyoke”- protection against waves and Inari after the god.My second visit to Tsukiji was to visit the tuna auction. My co-delegates and I decided to go to the tuna auction before we head to the conference that day. Due to the fact that no trains run during the time of the auction, we decided to stay up late. However, when we arrived in the ticket office, the last slots were already taken. How frustrating.
To make matters worse, I fell over the stairs in the subway. So much frustration that I decided to sleep in and miss a day in the conference.
But of course, I can’t leave Tokyo without going to the tuna auction.
As I cannot let go of the tuna auction, I plan to visit again just before my flight home. So the night before my flight, my friends and I spent the night in Com Com cafe ( which I really love). After three hours, we then left for the market. It was around 1:00 AM when we arrive. I was really paranoid about losing a ticket so I did not want to leave the line even though we were already the first ones to arrive there.
I do not want to sound melodramatic but it was tough that day. The weather was so bad that we were afraid the auction would be cancelled. It was raining hard that time, we had to hold our umbrellas while we were on line. I felt bad for my friends because I can see they are really tired and the rain was just bad. I told them they can go to a restaurant for coffee and warmth but they did not want to leave me behind even though I insisted that they should go. This experience would not be as great without my lovely and kind friends.
Here are some of the golden rules to follow when you plan to visit the tuna auction.
1. ) Arrive before the registration starts.
Visitors need to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) wherein registration opens around 3:15 AM. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis and only 120 applicants are accepted each day. The first 60 would go to the auction at 5:25 AM and leave at 5:50 AM while the second group would view the action between 5:50- 6:15 AM. After 25 minutes, they would escort you out promptly.
2. Plan ahead.
Firstly, check the schedule and see whether the market is close or not. Since there are no public transportation, the only way you can get to the auction is by taxi or by staying in a place near the market. If you really want to sleep, there are plenty of hotels near the area and also a couple of manga cafes where you could also rest. However if you prefer to stay up late, I suggest karaoke night. Trust me, Karaoke is the bomb!3. Wear appropriate shoes
It is not really a good idea to wear high-heels in a market. The best option is to wear sneakers as they do will not let you enter if you are wearing flip-flops or sandals.
4.) Be considerate that Tsukiji Market is a place for business.
People are busy so it is wise to stay in the side as trolleys and trucks are everywhere, prepare your dodging skills ( just kidding). Still, be cautious and look where you are going. Aside from that, do not take your luggage with you in the market. I kept mine in a coin locker in the subway station. Not only it will interfere with other people but it is also uncomfortable to explore with a bulky package with you.
With that in mind, you are all good! Cameras are allowed but do not use flash as it may interfere with the auction.
Lastly, enjoy the auction and the market!
We watched the auction in the visitor’s designated place. It was marvelous seeing prospective buyers go through and pick out their tuna. Buyers check the cavities of the tuna for the quality, sometimes tasting some bits. After most of the buyers finish checking, the auction will start.
The exciting process begins. The man in charge of the auction will shout off the number or the name of the tuna ( I’m not really sure, honestly) and an interested buyer would respond. Once the auction is finished, one of the men would write the buyer’s number on the top of the tuna then the fish would be carried off to buyer’s truck or lot.
The tuna auction was worth the visit! It was a crazy dash after that as I needed to get in the airport within two hours or I will miss my flight ( Honestly, I was hoping that would happen).
The Tsukiji Tuna Auction was the last activity I did in Tokyo. I’m glad I was able to visit this iconic spot before its impending relocation to Toyosu.