18 Tokyo Photos of the Old Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction

by Oct 17, 2018

“it’s sooooo early…”

“we’re lucky that we made it in time or we’d have to come back tomorrow”

Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction 築地市場 tl;dr

  • Be On TIME
  • Dress Warm Because It’s Cold
  • Be Here Even Earlier Than on Time

Imagine the sun is still down and you get up to make your way to Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction room. Making your way to Tsukiji you notice 2 things:

  1. it’s cold
  2. it’s dark… very dark

You get there, and find that there’s already people there waiting in line before you. It’s still hours before registration and you have nothing to pass the time other than talk to your companions, talk to yourself, or make friends.

Info Desk

Eventually they allow you into the auction room to see men examine fish, bid on fish, sell fish and purchase fish. Suffice to say, it’s a different experience and a different world. Watching people bid a lot of money on a single fish, albeit a large single fish, but a fish none the less is something of…

To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting.

Despite that, the Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction is one the many things that many visitors to Tokyo try to do. There you get to see the magic of people bidding 100’s of $1000’s of dollars on a single fish. It’s such a foreign concept to me personally that watching other people bid like they do is astounding.

Here’s our Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction experience in 18 photos just in case the new auction experience isn’t anything like the old one.

People Waiting on the Floor Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanWe weren’t the first ones here.

Show Up Earlier Than Early

Show up! No really, show up early…

“How early?”

Earlier than 5:00 am, much, much earlier than 5:00 am.

It’s a first come, first serve type of situation over at the Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction room. And let me tell you, other people show up earlier than 5:00 am. We got up at 3:00 am thinking we would be the first people to only find out that people were already there bored out of their minds waiting.

Nadia JM Happy Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanYou gotta laugh because it could be worse…

Get Comfortable Waiting

We found great humor in barely making the cut though, perhaps it had more to being half awake. Odds are, we were probably very delirious from too many FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) moments and not enough sleep during this trip.

JM Waiting on the Floor Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanNot the most comfortable sitting position for me.
Nadia JM Waiting in a Full Room Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanThe waiting room filled up fast.

First Come, First Serve

Once the visitor count hits that 120 person occupancy, they close the doors on all new comers and would be auction tourists. I can’t tell you how many different people came at 5:00 am begging the staff in Japanese, broken Japanese and non Japanese to let them in.

Go Away Sign Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanYou don’t want to see this sign.
Coffee Vending Machine Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanThe one saving grace here, the vending machine.

Coffee Is Your Friend

The wait can be long, as in we got there around 3:30 am and waited all the way to the 5:00 am registration. When the other voices you have been hearing, whether it’s yours, actual people or figments of your overactive imagination start to get your nerves, you can always turn to coffee or other vending machine libations.

Nadia Drinking Coffee Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanNadia love coffee!

Surprisingly the coffee from the vending machine comes hot in the can.

Auctioneer Announcement Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan 04All eyes on me!

You’re Here at the Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction

Eventually we were escorted to a cold room filled with large frost covered tuna fish and many, many rubber booted men with bright flashlights and sharp sickles.

Vendor Inspecting Fish Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan 02Checking the good.
Which one do you want?

So Many Expensive Fish

We were told that the most expensive recorded big was at $1.8 million dollars! Can you imagine paying $1.8 million for anything? I can’t even imagine paying $1.80 for a doughnut, much less a big frozen fish.

Vendor Inspecting Fish Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanAnother buyer, another fish.
Vendor Inspecting Fish Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan 03I’m guessing that he’s checking for the translucence of the flesh with the flashlight.

When It’s Done, It’s Done

And when the Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction is done, it’s all done…

Mountain of Styrofoam Containers Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo Japan 04So many!

Just like these styrofoam containers…

End of Day Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanIt’s so quiet…

All the activity in the busy market halls…

No Activity Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction Tokyo JapanOther than these guys, we were the only ones here. And they weren’t sticking around.

And just like that, all the busy activity in the Inner Market stopped as if it never happened. Unlike the mountain of containers and silent equipment, we were able to leave and eat some of that tuna sushi goodness that we got up so early to watch.

Go Get Some Food

Considering that most, if not all the action is already done for the day, your best bet is to either lineup at one of the Interior Market eateries that aren’t already closed for the day or one of the more plentiful venues in the Outer Market. Either way, you can’t go wrong and trust me you, you’ll be ruined for all sushi outside of Japan here on forward.

Crab Squid Shrimp Nigiri Tsukiji Sushi Say Honten Tokyo JapanTime to eat sushi!
Grilled Clam Tsukiji Market Tokyo Japan 02Or get a large grilled clam!

One and Done

This was definitely an experience that gave us a glimpse into the world of tuna. Never knew what was involved in the entire tuna fish buying process. There’s a lot more going on than simply buying it from a fisherman on the docks.

I’m glad we did it. And also can’t imagine getting up that early to ever do it again.

You're going to eat, you might as well eat something tasty.
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