Head to the Toyosu Market for a modern experience of the inner workings of the historic Tsukiji Market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
Visiting a seafood market may not be the first thing on a tourist’s itinerary, and in most cases, it probably doesn’t even come to mind at all. But this isn’t your regular market and there’s no other place quite like it. Barely a year old, the Toyosu Market (豊洲市 Toyosu Shijō) is a state-of-the-art seafood market complex that took the place of ‘Tokyo’s Kitchen’, Tsukiji Market. Twice the size of its predecessor, this 408,000 square meter seafood lover’s paradise houses over 40 food stalls serving the freshest seafood, a viewing deck for the tuna auctions, a whole building dedicated to selling fruits and vegetables, and a rooftop terrace to enjoy the Tokyo skyline.
Revel at the freshly caught treasures of the sea right before they’re brought to Japan’s finest restaurants, and while you’re at it, try some of the freshest quality seafood you’ll ever have in your life!
How Do You Get To Toyosu?
- The Ginza-itchōme Station is not too far from the Toyosu market. Take the Yurakucho Line and alight at the Toyosu Station (after 3 stops). Go through Exit 7, take the Yurikamome Line and alight at the Shijo-Mae Station (after 2 stops).
- If you’re coming from Shibuya Station, take the Hanzomon Line and alight at the Nagatacho Station (after 3 stops). Take the Yurakucho Line to the Toyosu Station (6 stops). Go through Exit 7, take the Yurikamome Line and alight at the Shijo-Mae Station (after 2 stops).
- Although the Shinjuku Station is the farthest route among the three, it’s still very manageable and will only take around 40 minutes of travel time. Take the Marunouchi Line and alight at the Shinjuku-Sanchome Station (after 1 stop). Look for the Shinjuku Line, alight at Ichigaya Station (after 2 stops) and take the Yurakucho Line to the Toyosu Station (8 stops). Go through Exit 7, take the Yurikamome Line and alight at the Shijo-Mae Station (after 2 stops).
What Are Toyosu’s Hours?
Toyosu is closed on Sundays, sometimes Wednesdays, and national holidays. Operations begin very early in the morning after midnight.
If you are planning on seeing an auction, note that train stations open at 5:00 AM, so the earliest time you can get to Shijo-Mae Station would be at 5:18 AM. Most operations begin very early in the morning, so you should consider taking a taxi. Depending on how far away from Toyosu you are, you might want to reconsider this option. The cheapest way to see Toyosu’s early operations is to camp out throughout the entire night or stay at a nearby hotel.
Toyosu & Tsukiji’s History
Before Toyosu, there was the more famous Tsukiji Fish Market. The decision to relocate Tsukiji was made primarily due to the fact it was an 83-year-old market that occupied a prime location in the center of Tokyo. It wasn’t able to properly accommodate the immense foot traffic from tourists and locals alike.
Toyosu was scheduled to open in November of 2016 but was postponed to ensure proper sanitation and to quell concerns of toxic contaminants. The building was previously a gas plant before being converted. Toyosu Market officially opened on October 11th, 2018.
What Can You Do At Toyosu?
The Toyosu Market consists of 3 main multistory buildings—2 for selling fish and seafood, and 1 for selling fruits and vegetables—interconnected through covered walkways, which can bevery useful for when the weather gets too hot or rainy.
1. Fish Wholesale Market Building (Auction Halls)
Tuna auctions take place here from 5:30-6:30am and tourists are allowed to view the process from either the ground level or one floor above. If the auctions are the main purpose of your visit, it would be best to come earlier, as the activities can start off as early as 4:30am and wrap up by around 8:00am.
2. Ground Level Observation Deck
The ground level observation deck provides you a ringside view, with just glass separating you from all the action, and the glass doesn’t go all the way up, so you get to hear and smell everything! But all good things come at a price and because admission is free, it’s all the more difficult to get in, especially if you aren’t coming alone. This section only holds 40 people at a time and you’re given a viewing period of 10 minutes, then that’s it. Before you think that they’re being stingy with the time, just remember that the total viewing period only lasts from 5:45 to 6:15 AM, and so that 10-minute time frame allows 3 groups of people to view the auction. You can only apply for a spot during an allotted time scheduled a month before, and applicants are determined via lottery and informed a few days after.
3. Second Floor Observation Windows
If you are not among the lucky few who are chosen, you can still view the auction from the second floor. Just make sure to be there as early as you can to get a good spot. Although you won’t be able to hear much (or anything at all) and you might not be able to take good pictures because of the reflectiveness of the double-glazed windows, you get a bird’s-eye view of all the freshly-caught tuna of the day, lined up neatly in rows on shiny green flooring, and that’s not half bad! In case you were wondering, the floor is green for a reason. The quality of tuna is determined by the redness of its meat, and color theory tells us that red stands out the most when placed against a green background. Keep an eye out for information scattered around the facility explaining how stuff works (like terms and hand signals used during the auction) and be one step closer to becoming a full-fledged fish auctioneer yourself!
If you’re into variety of seafood, they are also auctioned off at a separate hall, which you can view from the windows on the second floor too. The floors here are grey, so that’s an easy way to differentiate the two halls.
4. Block 7: Toyosu Market Management Offices
Because the layout of the area can be quite confusing, especially if it is your first visit, it would be very helpful to drop by the public relations corner for some essential information about the entire market, so you have a clearer idea of all the things that you can see and do. They’ve also got a giant life-size tuna figure you can take a picture with, which reminds you just how huge and majestic these creatures are.
5. Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building
This building is where licensed buyers purchase seafood, and so the general public aren’t really allowed in those areas. Just skip right to the upper floors where you can find a place to eat—they have the largest selection of restaurants among the 3 buildings—observation windows, and a non-wholesale market. After the auctions, you’re most likely going to spend most of your time here.
6. Observation Windows
Doesn’t the fact that the lower floors are off-limits make you all the more curious about what’s going on down there? Well, they’ve thought of that too, so they installed these windows so you can see a bit of what’s happening from above. It’s not as action-packed as the auctions, but the juxtaposition of the modern architecture and the stacks of styrofoam boxes packed with fresh seafood paints a perfect picture of the fusion between modern and the familiar.
7. Uogashi Yokocho Market
You’re probably bummed out that everything you’ve been seeing is in bulk, so you can’t take anything home with you, but this place has got you covered because they’ve got over 60 stalls that sell retail-sized portions of everything from tea, sake (Japanese rice wine), snacks, kitchenware, clothes and random souvenirs.
8. Rooftop Garden
Have you ever heard of a seafood market with a rooftop garden? Now you have! Take a post-meal stroll, get some fresh air, and enjoy the soothing view of the waterfront and Mt. Fuji (on a clear day)! This would be a great place to cap off your visit. Just remember to leave your food behind so that you’re not tempted to eat or drink in the area. It is forbidden to do so with signs posted.
9. Fruit and Vegetable Market Building
Believe it or not, the Japanese take their fruit seriously, and a closer look at the produce would prove this to you. Not to be outdone by the fish buildings, they too have observation windows from which you can view their auction hall and wholesale shops. Get a crash course on the monthly seasonal fruits of Japan through the 12 color-coded windows! Although probably not as exciting as the tuna auction (unless you’re really into fruits and vegetables), it is a unique and visually-stimulating experience in itself. For additional dining (or snacking) options, they also have a couple of restaurants by the entrance, but more on that below.
If you were looking forward to visiting the famous restaurants in the Tsukiji Inner Market, and you thought that you’ve lost your chance forever, fret not because a lot of the restaurants actually reopened here in Toyosu! Here’s a bunch of popular places to try out, but be warned that you’re most probably going to have to fall in line because most of them only serve around 10 people at a time. They’re also the busiest at around 11am. Do take note of the restaurant names in Kanji because not all of them are spelled out in English.
Fish Wholesale Market Building (Tuna Auction Building)
Toyosu Market is one of the best places to eat sushi, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all you have to eat. They’ve also got other options for people with other preferences and there’s something for everyone. Yachiyo is famous for their deep fried horse mackerel, scallop, and prawn, but their Char Siu with egg is definitely their bestseller, so much so, that it’s sold out by 8am. Keep in mind that it’s only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays… If they’re sold out or you’re there on another day, you could try your luck at Odayasu in the other seafood building.
(Operating Hours: 05:00 – 13:00)
Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building
Sushi Dai (寿司大)
Okay, Sushi Dai needs no introduction and you probably won’t have a hard time spotting it because they’ve always got a line, and a really long one at that. They say that good things come to those who wait, and if you have the drive in you to wait for over an hour (or three), then you will be rewarded with some of the freshest and most delicious sushi you’ve ever eaten. For the sheer quality you’r egetting, an Tencho Omakase (chef’s choice) set meal—with 9 pieces of sushi, one bonus piece that you can choose, 4 types of rolled sushi, and miso soup—is not a bad deal at 4,500 yen.
(Operating Hours: 05:30 – 14:00)
Shou Sushi (晶)
Don’t sleep on this sushiya just because they don’t have a long line like other places. Spare yourself from the agonizing wait and give this underrated hidden gem a try. Besides, if you think about it, all of the seafood here, regardless of the restaurant, is incredibly fresh.
(Operating Hours: 06:00 – 14:00; Closed on Wednesdays)
Odayasu is best known for their Tonkatsu (pork cutlet), seasonal deep fried oyster (available only from October to April), Scotch Egg (a deep fried meatball with a soft-boiled egg center; this menu item is unique to their shop), and Char Siu (simmered pork) with egg (like Yachiyo) set meals. The prices range from 1,250 – 1,650 yen and they also have a variety of deep fried seafood options like prawn, scallop, and salmon that you can order individually. If you aren’t keen on eating raw seafood, pass on the scallop because it’s quite rare in the middle.
(Operating Hours: 05:30 – 14:00)
Tsukiji Oedo (海鮮丼 大江戸)
Enjoy a bowl of Kaisen Don or Chirashi Sushi in Tsukiji Oedo. They both refer to rice bowls topped with thin slices of raw seafood (sashimi), with the former using steamed rice and the latter, vinegar sushi rice.
(Operating Hours: 04:30 -14:30)
Indo Curry Nakaei (中栄 なかえい)
Despite their name, this ‘cafeteria of the market’ since 1912 doesn’t just serve Indian (pork) curry. They also have sweet Japanese (beef) curry, Hayashi rice (hashed beef stew in tomato-based sauce), broiled pork curry, and even a Tsukiji Uogashi seafood curry with fresh snow crab, shrimp, and scallops (1,000 yen). And did I mention that everything is made from scratch, following a time- honored recipe? If you aren’t sold on them yet, you’ll be happy to know that most of their dishes are really affordable at 600 – 800 yen too. They’re usually packed with workers and locals, so if you can’t get a seat, you can opt to take their curry sauces in jars home with you for 1,500 yen instead.
(Operating Hours: 05:00 – 14:00)
Fukusen specializes in Unagi (freshwater eel) and Yakitori (grilled skewered chicken) dishes. Unagi can be quite costly—both in a financial and in an environmental sense—and unsustainable since eel populations have been plummeting in recent years, so this could be something to consider before consuming eel, in general. Nevertheless, their Yakitori dishes are also a great option and pair especially well with sake. Rice bowls range from 2,600 yen to 3,000 yen.
(Operating Hours: 06:30 – 13:30)
Nakaya is another place that is popular for their Chirashi Sushi. They were a main fixture in the Tsukiji Inner Market and although their location may have changed,their fast service and quality dishes most certainly have not.
(Operating Hours: 5:00 – 14:00)
Senri-ken Coffee Shop (センリ軒)
Be one with the market workers and grab a snack at the Senri-ken Coffee Shop. They’ve been serving the workers for years and they’re best known for their Cream Stew with Soft-boiled Egg (600 yen) and Katsu Sando (deep-fried pork cutlet sandwich; 800 yen). These dishes may sound simple, but once you taste them, you’ll understand why they’ve been around for over a hundred years.
(Operating Hours: 5:00 – 13:00)
Yoshinoya ( ?野家 )
Now, you might think I’m crazy for even mentioning this fast food joint when there are so many other special, less ubiquitous options around, but hear me out. This outlet is special because it has a lot of history to it and was the very first branch. It was originally located in the Tsukiji Inner Market and was moved here for obvious cultural reasons (because Yoshinoya is a national treasure). And besides, it’s always reassuring to have Japanese comfort food within reach at anytime, even when you’re in Toyosu Market.
(Operating Hours: It’s open 24 hours!)
Fruit and Vegetable Market Building
If you’re in the mood for some fried food, then Tenfusa is the place for you. They’re best known for their tempura, seafood and vegetables deep fried in batter. Their tempura is so light that you forget that it’s deep fried. This makes it a delicious meal, even early in the morning. Try their bestseller, Anago (saltwater eel) tempura if you want to try something different, but you can never go wrong with the classic Ebi (shrimp) tempura or their Daily Set with a mix of choice seafood, fresh from the market. You can also order a set meal with tuna sashimi, if you want some variety.
(Operating Hours: 07:00 – 14:00)
Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司)
Although not to be confused with Sushi Dai, Daiwa Sushi is also a very popular sushiya (sushi restaurant) in its own right. If you can’t decide on what to eat, it’s always best to order an omakase meal. Theirs has 7 pieces of sushi, a sushi roll, tamagoyaki and soup for 4,320 yen.
(Operating Hours: 05:30 – 13:00)
What’s in store
Toyosu Market is early phases of development and as of now, the public can’t really buy fresh seafood directly from the market yet, and can only ‘purchase’ it from the restaurants, but exciting developments lie ahead. There are plans of constructing a Senkyaku Banrai; shopping and entertainment complex, more restaurants and retail areas, a hotel, and even a public bath by the spring of 2023. With a hotel in the works, it sounds almost as if they’re cooking up a culinary theme park that’ll give Disneyland a run for its money. (Sea)Foodies rejoice!
Toyosu Market is a great place to not only savor the gifts of the seas, but also appreciate all the work that goes behind getting our food to our plates.