Update Winter 2018: The wholesale market of Tsukiji (the tuna auction place) is now closed and moved to Toyosu. But after so many years in the area, the Tsukiji are is still worth a visit. Read below what you can’t miss in the outer market and beyond.
With the fish market move postponed without fixed date (rumor has it it will happen in October 2018, but it’s been postponed again and again…) the most important fish market in the world is still a key visit in Tokyo. But you have to wake up early and you might find out that all the seats were taken already, or that the market is closed for the day…
So, for each of you who have asked… Is it worth visiting Tsukiji if you are not going to the tuna auction? What else should we visit in Tsukiji? When is it open? Here we go:
While Tokyo never closes (only two days a year, and not everything) the Tsukiji market closes on Wednesdays, Sundays and every other major bank holiday. But many shops and attractions in the area never close. Here you have some ideas to check:
1. Eating (and/or shopping) at the Outer Market
Although the whole sale market at Tsukiji is closed, most of the shops and restaurants of Tsukiji (specially those shops with a restaurant) are opened. If you like japanese omelette (tamagoyaki) you will find about 10 different shops that cook it on the go. Plus sushi, ramen, grilled seafood…
Just take into account that sharing is not well seen and if there is a line waiting to eat behind you, you will have to eat as fast as the locals do 😉
2. Take a look at the marquee and the closed doors
One of the “pros” of having the market closed is that you can take a great look at the paintings that decorate the doors. If you like street art and mural art, it will be one of the few times where you will see this kind of designs in Tokyo.
Also, since there is less people in the area than before, you will be able to see the epic fight between a crab and a tuna fish (and many more weird signs above your head.)
3. Say hi to the amazing lion heads at Namiyoke Inari Shrine
On one side of the old entrance to the wholesale market, you will find a small shinto shrine. A small corner where the workers of the market used to go to ask for fortune and pray. But the most peculiar things here are the enormous heads of the lions that guard the entrance (they weight about one ton each.)
Even though it is a quite small shrine, it dates back to the XVII century and wasn’t finished until the 20th century.
4. Travel back to India at the buddhist Tsukiji-Hongwanji temple
Even thought it looks like they are under renovation (they were working on the garden) this building that would be fit for an indian postcard is the most important Buddhist temple here and one of the few temples in Tokyo that offer services in English (th 4th saturday of the month).
When it was built, the main façade was looking towards Tsukiji fish market, where there were other 58 temples (the complex had other three temples inside before it was moved to Toyosu.) But after a few earthquakes shook the area, they rebuilt it with this hindu style in 1934 (it is National Heritage of Japan.)
At the main hall you will find some free commemorative cards you can take as souvenirs. They change the design monthly.
5. Enjoy the bridges at Sumida river
Tsukiji means built land. It was literally built 300 years ago from the river land. And, while it may seem that the sea is far away, an important bridge (Kachidokibashi) is just a few meters away.
I don’t have any decent pictures (rain was unstoppable), if you are into engineering or night pics, you’ll like this site. It is the only Tokyo bridge that can be lifted (like the London bridge) but they haven’t done it since the 70’s. And it gets light up at night.
6. Finding peace at Hama-rikyū Onshi-teien gardens
Tokyo is full of beautiful parks and stunning gardens, but one of the most famous ones is the Hama-rikyū Onshi-teien, its pond and the tea place that is right in the middle.
Not far from the park is the museum of advertising, the ADMT. It is inside the shopping center of Caretta Shiodome (it has a Toei train station). Admission is free, but it has an impressive collection of old japanese ads.
7. Enjoy Kabuki drama at Ginza
It might seem a whole world apart, but Ginza is only about 5 to 10 miutes away (on foot). And one of the first buildings that will tell you that you are in Ginza is Kabuki-za, the traditional Kabuki theatre in Tokyo (and the most important in all Japan.)
A sure must if you are into culture and, if you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money, remember that you can wait in line to buy same day tickets for just one act (they sell 90 seats and standing tickets on the same day, 30 minutes before the first function of the day but people queue for over an hour or so depending on the cast and show of the day). Ask for “Hitomakumi” tickets at the door.
More ideas to discover the Tsukiji area
If you don’t want to wake up early to attend the Toyosu tuna auction, there are some alternatives: there are some guided visits to the outer market, combined visits that go to Toyosu and Tsukiji on the same day, and even cooking lessons. You will find plenty at Viator, such as this tour that takes you to the outer market and then goes to a professional cooking school.