It was not my idea, first of all. If you had read my other post on Tsukiji, you would know that me and my friends tried and failed once, even though we got there around 3:40 am. I had no desire to try it again when it’s just a bunch of men screaming for some fish. But fish that I dearly loved to eat, nevertheless. Anyway, it was my brother’s idea, who watched it on TV already and probably saw all there is to see. He just wanted to see it in the flesh. I had no choice but to oblige, and hey, what do you know, we succeeded! And so I compiled the things you should know to successfully do it as well.
1. Be there by 3:30 am. How? Get a taxi, or stay in a nearby hotel, or a nearby Manga Cafe, or karaoke. We went there by taxi from Shinjuku Kabukicho area at around 3:00am, costing 4,000 yen. We got there 3:20 and we were at number 37 on the line. Consider that it was a Tuesday morning in summer. The last slot that day was filled at 4:15 am. Lucky guy.
2. “Tsukijishijo, Kachidoki Mon made kudasai.” That’s what you’re gonna tell your taxi. The entrance is at the KACHIDOKI entrance, not the main entrance. Study the map before going so that you know where to go. Not all taxis know where to drop you off, since there are other entrances. This is one reason why we failed last year, we got off the main entrance, so precious time was wasted looking for the actual entrance.
3. You wait outside the Kachidoki entrance right beside the Kachidoki bridge, until they let you in when the number of waiting people reaches around 60 (first batch). We got in around 3:45 am. Keep this in mind when you attempt to go to Tsukiji in horrible weather.
4. You get green vests when you successfully become one of the first to witness the auction for the day. You get blue vests when you are on the second batch.
5. You need to kill time for at least an hour. There’s a small waiting room where you all sit like fish in a can.
6. At 5:25, you are ushered to the auction area. You go through the usual market scene of moving trucks and workers. It’s business as usual for them, so they are prioritized on the streets. It’s important not to hinder their work. Second batch goes in around 6.
7. There are two auctions in the auction area, left and right. (5:25/6:00) And when you enter the auction area, ask the staff which side is first. Ours was the one to the right.
8. The auction area is a fridge. Meaning, it’s a bit cold.
9. Tuna are big! Probably bigger than me. Then there are the smaller ones… They’re all frozen by the way.
10. The auction starts soon after the wholesalers have inspected the fish. You might not understand what’s going on, so please read about the auction before you go.
11. The fattest fish is auctioned off first. And they know it by looking at the meat near the tail of the fish. The inspectors have already touched and even tasted the fish they’re interested in bidding on.
12. The size of the fish does not relate to how fat it is. I thought the biggest fish would be the most expensive per gram but no, apparently not.
13. There is an inner market, and an outer market. The inner market is where you watch the auction. The place is usually off limits to outsiders. Go around the outer market after the auction. There is a huge assortment of seafood goodies to purchase!
14. Have sushi! And try out the street food available all around the place.
If you want to know where to eat, check out my post on Tsukiji Market Sushi!