Image by Alexander J.E. Bradley 500px Images
Fruit, vegetables, flowers and meat are sold here, but it's seafood – around 2000 tonnes of it traded daily – that Tsukiji is most famous for. The Seafood Intermediate Wholesalers' Area, part of the inner market (jōnai-shijō), is slated to move to new facilities in Toyosu in late 2018; the equally fascinating outer market, comprising hundreds of food stalls and restaurants, will stay put.
Check the market's online calendar to make sure it's open, and for instructions on attending the tuna auctions, which start around 5am.
Tsukiji's star attraction is maguro (bluefin tuna) as big as submarine torpedoes and weighing up to 300kg: the sight (and sound) of these flash-frozen whoppers being auctioned is a classic Tokyo experience, worth getting up early (or staying up late) for.
Visitors begin pitching up for one of the 120 allotted places for viewing the auctions from around 3.30am at the Fish Information Center in the northwest corner of the market. It's on a first-come, first-served basis. The first batch of 60 visitors go in to see the auctions between 5.50am and 6.05am; the second batch is from 6.05am to 6.20am. As public transport does not start running until around 5am, you will either need to walk or take a taxi to the market this early in the morning.
If you show up later, there's still plenty to see. The intermediate wholesalers' area is open to visitors at 10am. Shops in the Uogashi-yokochō – a cluster of tiny restaurants, and food and souvenir stalls within the jōnai-shijō – and the outer market are open even earlier and don't shut until around 2pm.
Exercise caution and respect when visiting Tsukiji so as not to spoil the opportunity for future visitors. Large groups, babies and young children are prohibited from the inner market.
When the market does move, public access to the new market will change.