Lonely Planet Writer

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market to host farewell festival ahead of move to new development

Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji Market will hold a final festival at its current location on 3 May, before the market’s controversial move to a new development later this year.

Fish stall at The Tsukiji Market.
Fish stall at The Tsukiji Market. Image by Greg Palmer / CC BY 2.0

One of Tokyo’s premier attractions, Tsukiji Market is the largest wholesale fish market in the world, moving around 2000 tonnes of seafood each day. Though other foods are sold here, it’s perhaps most famous for its early-morning tuna auctions – bleary-eyed tourists start queuing to register for one of the limited viewing spots from as early as 3.30am on auction days. The market has been in operation since 1935, when it replaced the original Nihombashi Market, but plans to shift it further south to Toyosu have been in discussion for years.

Not everyone associated with the market is happy with the decision to relocate, with some concerned that the market’s character and identity will be lost in the modern new Toyosu complex. There has also been controversy over soil contamination at the new site, which was formerly occupied by a gas works, leading to a costly and time-consuming clean-up operation. But supporters of the relocation cite the need for improved sanitation and more space as vital for the continuation of the market. The new market – set to open in November – will have state-of-the-art facilities, temperature-controlled rooms, and a viewing area for tourists.

The May festival is billed as a ‘thank you’ to the market’s current district and will feature fresh produce and specialities from across the country as well as Tokyo. A message board will also be on display for workers to share their thoughts and bid farewell to Tsukiji, and Japanese traditional rakugoka (‘storyteller’) is appearing as a guest speaker. The previous festival was held in 2014 and brought 100,000 visitors to the market.