I’ve decided I’m crazier than I thought after visiting Japan. Who in their right mind climbs a giant mountain or stays up all night to look at tuna? Well you and I do I guess, that’s half the fun really. So how do you do it successfully?
I started in the morning by sleeping in and then doing something exhausting so I could take a loong nap after dinner. I wanted to see the world biggest and most expensive fish laid out before me so I set out at 1130pm. I caught the last train over to Tsukiji. I wouldn’t recommend the last train because there is error so leave room for it otherwise you’re runnin’ (which I did). I got to the Tsukiji area around 1am after missing a train and having to take an alternate route. I was swimming in time really so no big deal. I decided to take up someones suggestion and go hang at Jonathans 24hr diner around the corner. It was brightly lit and had tons of food options. They have a weird unlimited drink bar situation so If you don’t want to pay 600 ish yen for drinks just stick to water. They don’t have free wifi but the convenience store downstairs does which you should be able to access. If you’d prefer authenticity there’s a few ramen shops open around and I kind of wished I had gone there.
At three am everyone who was waiting for the market left, I left shortly after them at 315 thinking I had plenty of time, besides it was really early. I got there at 3:23 (it’s a short walk around the corner towards the bridge) and received a pinny. To be let into the market you need to be wearing a pinny. At 3:23 I was put into the second group as the first was already full and there was already 20 people ahead of me in the second. I guess people waited all night, yikes. By 3:45 both groups were full and they started turning people away.
The tuna auction viewing starts at 5:15 and the second group, 5:45 so now we had to wait. There is nothing to do in there except go outside and smoke and buy coffee from vending machines so bring something to do or a pillow. There is almost 0 plug -ins for your electronics so be aware. Sitting on the floor will be inevitable as will starring at the clock.
I was in the second group so we left at 5:45. It’s a good idea that around 5:40 you head to the front of the room by the fish descriptors because the closer to the front the better the view of the auction you will have. You file into the auction in a single line and anyone at the end will create a second row behind with a lesser view. We lined up and were warned not to straggle or wander away from the group as forklifts are working and will hit us if we don’t stick together. They were right, there were several near misses while I dilly dallied taking pictures so take them fast and preferably while still walking.
I was told actually from someone who has attended the auction several times that the second group is the better one to be in as there is more action happening and things to see. We saw men using picks to hammer at the tail of the huge tuna checking for quality and fat content. We were mesmerized but then the most bizarre auction I’ve ever seen began. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
I then went over and had sushi, the highlight being the medium fatty tuna, so soft. There’s something about sushi at 6am that makes it even more special and fun. Upon talking to the sushi master the most expensive fish sold was /g CAD wow.
Make sure the auction is being held on your date here
Arrive before 3:30 to ensure a spot (230-2:45 if you’d like a spot in the first group)
Try to be at the front of the line up when walking
If you are in the front row be kind after you take your photos and let the back row see some of the action
Remember you’re not paying to be there so behave, do what they say and don’t use flash photography
Rush to the sushi shops when done as they line up 100 people deep quickly
Order the fatty and medium fatty tuna
Check the fish market out after 10am
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Probably but I’d like to be in the ring next time buying.