IS IT WORTH IT: Tsukiji Fish Market

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By Claire D'hooghe | March 5, 2016

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Japan.

Walking in the Tsukiji Fish Market feels fresh, like being slapped in the face with a giant fish.

There is a high standard of how sushi must be prepared, presented and eaten all over Japan, particularly Tokyo, and no sushi restaurant worth its name – from the fancy black-and-gold five-star to the back-alley stand-and-go hallway – will fail to meet the high standard.

So with all that quality sushi going ‘round, where does the 2000-tons a day of seafood come from? The ultra-touristic, highly recommended via Trip-Advisor destination: Tsukiji Fish Market, of course! (…duh)

TV crews and reviews tell tales of an enormous indoor fish market; produce flying overhead, threatening the lives of any passerbys who don’t respect the biz; enormous tuna stinking the way only fresh-straight-outta-the-ocean seafood can; screaming fisherman and stall holders fighting for the best price. The whole shebang lasting from early morning and ’til noon.

But there’s a catch (pardon the pun): only 120 people are allowed into the Tsukiji Fish Market, this incredible early-morning every-day market. Line ups normally start around 4-5am and you might get the chance to spend 20-30 minutes inside the real fish market (where all the real biz goes down) watching the mornings tuna haul be sold.

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Enthusiastic early morning sleepers are left to dream about all those wonderful Trip Advisor reviews and resign ourselves to walking around the outdoor markets later in the day, scattered with fish stalls, fresh seafood, knives and food related products only seen in Asian markets. You can venture inside but, as a working market, it’s possible you’ll be run down in the small area open to tourists by shop hands moving trolleys of fresh produce and seafood around, and/or a hustling tour-group with a little flag to shepherd them and point out those photo-ops you just gotta take.

The outdoor area of Tsukiji Fish Market is predominantly for tourists but it’s still interesting if you love seafood and not a bad way to waste a few hours. Fresh sashimi is available with several sushi restaurants operating within the market, most fairly expensive but hey, you’re at a fish market, it’s fresh and you’re hungry. There are also shrimps and mussels, but we went for the buttery, flame-seared fresh scallops. Decadent.

Scallop Tsukiji Fish Market

The buttered-up and flame-seared fresh palm-sized scallop in all it’s juicy glory.

They were grilled in front of our eyes, fresh-to-death (literally) and huge. A small Asian girl at our table (sharing is caring/there’s no other room) compared it to the size of her small hand for a photo, though it doesn’t do it justice.

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As you continue to wonder around, if the fresh stench of fish doesn’t overwhelm you than the amount of tourists flooding every corridor and roadside might. The market gets busy quickly, being on Trip Advisors and every Guidebook lists of ‘must-dos’.

Fish Tsujiki Fish Market

Smells funky, looks delicious! Fresh salmon: five pieces for ¥1000. That’s about twelve Aussie Dollaroos, mate!

I’m not really sure what the draw is if you’re not lucky enough to actually get inside. If you really love your seafood, we recommend either suiting up with a camera crew, lining up at 4am or for lunch at one of the onsite restaurants, or just heading to any upmarket sushi joint in town and travelling to an actual seaside fishing village sometime along your Japanese journey for an authentic, less-crowded experience.

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Time spent: 60 minutes

Price: Free

Where is it: Tsukuji Train on Oedo line, 20 minutes from Shinjuku (¥270).

Nothing else around it. Just a standard industrial area with the Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s close to Ginza, though.

Closed: Sunday, Wednesday and holidays. Tourists are discouraged around New Years.

Worth the Dime or Waste of Time: Waste of Time. Sorry Trip Advisor Community, but there’s so many better things to do in Tokyo. Unless you’ve seen it all or love you some fresh seafood to the point your perpetual state of boredom can only be cured by eating it, then do something else with your morning, man.

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