Tokyo, Japan: Seven Step Guide to the Tsukiji Tuna Auction - September 2017
Tsukiji Market is the world's largest wholesale fish and seafood retailer. More than 400 different kinds of seafood can be found at the market from seaweed and sardines, to caviar and tuna. The total value of the merchandise handled on the premises surpasses 600 billion yen or nearly 6 billion U.S. dollars annually.
The market opens daily beginning at 3 a.m. to greet ships, planes and trucks delivering catches from all over the world. Aside from strolling through the market stalls, the most popular visitor attraction is the tuna auction. If you are interested in observing the world-famous auction, follow this seven-step guide to make the most of your visit.
1.) Get your plan together ahead of time. The day you plan to visit will start early. The auction begins before the Tokyo metro starts service so you'll need to either stay at accommodation within walking distance or pre-arrange a taxi service. Check the schedule ahead of time; the auction doesn't take place on Sundays, many Wednesdays and when a tropical storm is looming.
2.) Get there early. While the actual auction begins at 5 a.m., visitors begin queuing outside of Osakana Fukyu Center as early as 1 a.m. in peak season. Only two groups of 60 visitors are permitted into the auction each day and no reservations or group tours are allowed.
3.) Get in line. When you see a line forming for the auction, get in it and stay in it. Spots are precious, and policemen take their jobs seriously monitoring tourist behavior and regulating the number of visitors permitted. Anyone suspected of being intoxicated is not allowed into the auction so forget about your plans to stay up all night.
4.) Get comfortable on the floor. If you are lucky enough to be one of the 120 visitors granted a spot, you'll be sequestered inside a small building. You'll be provided a high-visibility vest and instructed to wait. Secure a spot on the floor and try to get as comfortable as possible. About thirty minutes prior to being escorted into the market, an experienced bidder provides an orientation about the market, the auction and the tuna trade. Have your questions ready.
5.) Get up close. At 5:25 a.m. the first group of visitors is escorted into the industrial area where the tuna auction takes place. The tuna are put on display for perspective bidders to survey prior to the event. Both fresh and frozen tuna are included in the auction and buyers analyze the fish quality by evaluating core samples placed atop the fish. The auction begins with the ringing of a bell and is an intense display of yelling and rapid fire hand gesturing. Try to finagle your way close to the front to get the best view of the action.
6.) Get out of the way. On your way to and from the auction, your group will be escorted by policemen through a massive industrial warehouse complex. The area is a buzz with motorized carts, wheel barrels and forklifts. The vests are no defense against the moving equipment and rushed workers so watch where you are going and respect the business going on around you.
7.) Get out of there. By 6 a.m. the auction is over and it's time to leave. Most likely you'll have had enough of the fishy smell and noise, but if you still haven't gotten your fix, stop outside the auction area at one of the many seafood stalls to sample a fresh catch.
The Tsukiiji Market and tuna action is an incredible display and worth the time to enjoy the show. Due to its popularity and safety concerns associated with the current arrangement, the local government is considering moving the market outside of Tokyo. Ensure you have the latest information before planning your visit.