At the top of any must-visit Tokyo attractions list is the Tsukiji Market, the largest wholesale seafood market of its kind in the world. Together with Tokyo’s two other markets, this place handles a staggering 700,000 metric tons of seafood every year. Now that’s a lot of sushi! Tsukiji is, essentially, the kitchen for Tokyo’s 12 million inhabitants.
Technically the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, Tsukiji Market is located in the city centre between the Sumida River and the snazzy Ginza commercial district. Established in the 1930s, it is a sprawling complex consisting of an inner and outer market, plus a number of supporting administrative buildings.
The inner market is reserved for wholesalers where the famous tuna auction is held daily (good luck getting observer tickets), and licensed stalls prepare all manner of fish and seafood for redistribution and retail sale. Activity starts around 3am and peaks before 8am, so visitors are not allowed access to some areas until after 9am. Serious and hectic business is conducted here, and the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of curious camera-toting tourists getting in the way.
The outer market is a collection of retail shops and stalls that sells anything from fresh seafood, street snacks, and kitchen supplies. It’s incredibly crowded with visitors, local and foreign alike. A large number of sushi restaurants are also found here, the more popular ones with hour long queues.
In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the wholesale market is planned to relocate to Toyosu in eastern Koto ward, in November 2016 . The vacated site at Tsukiji – premium real estate location – will be redeveloped, but about a quarter of the current retail market will be retained. So if there was ever a good time to visit this legendary Tokyo attraction, it’s now – go experience this historical site before it is gone forever.