Tsukiji Market: Size Does Matter
Leah Walker December 20, 2011

If there is something billed as “the world’s largest,” you can bet I’m going to see it. I’ve seen the world’s largest pecan, rattlesnake, and roadrunner. All three, although impressive, left me underwhelmed. So when I found out that I would have 24 hours in Tokyo, I figured I must see the world’s largest seafood market.

Tsukiji Market Map

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Tsukiji Market was located a short, ten-minute walk from the Conrad Hotel, or at least it should have been a ten-minute walk. With all the construction and gargantuan buildings, coupled with my inability to navigate directions, it took about twenty. Nonetheless, I eventually found the market. Luckily I didn’t wake up crazy early to get on the list for the tuna auction {thanks to the Conrad concierge}. Apparently December and January are the busiest times of the year, and the auction is closed to visitors.

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I was met at the market’s front gate by a man handing out maps and showing the off-limit areas. It was 9:30, late by Tsukiji standards, but there was still a lot of activity. I followed the yellow lines painted for visitors past the fruit and vegetable stalls and around the corner by the restaurants. Normally sushi so early doesn’t sound too appealing, but it did on this day. I wasn’t the only ones with the same sushi-for-breakfast idea; the restaurants were packed.

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Through the trucks, bicycles, carts, and wagons, I spotted the seafood wholesale area. Like Frogger, I managed to maneuver across the pavement without getting run over. Before me was more seafood than I had seen in my lifetime combined. This market, although exceptionally organized, was still completely overwhelming. Tsukiji looked like a delicious Excel spreadsheet with all its rows and columns. Stalls, meticulously kept, contained everything from salmon and tuna to geoduck and squid. There were things I’d never seen, much less heard of before. Alive, dead, frozen, and fresh, there was something to satisfy every buyer’s taste.

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Each stall was laid out basically the same. Vendors’ products were presented and marketed as jewelers display their finest gems. The highest-quality products were put in places of prominence with lights directing buyers’ eyes to it as if to say, “Here I am. Buy me!” Despite the copious amount of blood and fish parts, the market was surprisingly clean and tidy; not once did I detect the smell of fish. Tables, chairs, knives, and scales were all sprayed using water hoses and then wiped down in preparation for the next day’s inventory.

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As I gawked, pointed, and took photos, I tried to keep out of the way. It was a vacation stop for me, but for everyone else, this was a way of life.

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After an hour, I made my way out of the seafood wholesale area; there was no way I could see everything. Hungry, I decided on one of the several restaurants in the market. Seated at the sushi bar, I was spoken to in English and handed an English menu. My waiter was curious as to know where I called home, and what I thought of Japan. I think he really wanted to practice his English, too. I was served the best tuna and salmon I’ve ever tasted, and that isn’t an exaggeration. It was simply perfect.

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The restaurant was a safe haven from the madness of the market, yet as soon as I stepped out the door, the sounds and activity was again upon me. I welcomed it. This is one “world’s largest” sight that didn’t disappoint. I grabbed a still-warm chocolate croissant and left Tsukiji behind. My time was running short in Tokyo, but I knew I would be back, if only to have the best sushi in the world again.

Tsukiji Market Schedule


Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Luxe Beat Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.


  1. Wonderful photos of Tsukiji! The fish and octopus pictures are awesome! Unfortunately, we missed Tsukiji when we were in Tokyo last summer but I’m glad I got to read what it’s all about on your post. Good to know that it lived up to the Japanese standards of cleanliness.

    1. Thank you! So many of the photos didn’t turn out because I haven’t mastered photography in low-light situations. When you do go back, I highly suggest visiting the market. I will go again, and hopefully get to see the tuna auction. I really hate that it was closed to visitors. Thanks for stopping by and your comments!

    1. Thank you, Christina. To me the market smelled like ocean and not fish. When one describes a smell as fishy, I think something bad smelling. It by no means stunk to me. But if you are sensitive about that kind of smell, it might not be an appealing place for you to visit. The cool thing is that it’s free, so next time you’re in Tokyo, check it out. If the smell bothers you then you can just leave and not be out anything…except for a little time.

  2. Wow, this place looks amazing. I really love visiting fish markets. I’m not even sure why because they’re usually stinky and cold but there’s something really fascinating about them.

    1. Surprisingly enough, Tsukiji didn’t smell in the least. The vendors were constantly spraying things down, plus the fish were so fresh. It smelled like the ocean, if anything.

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