Before going to the Tsukiji Outer Market in Tokyo, I compiled a list of the “best” places to eat. What a waste of time. While I’m a firm believer in the power of being prepared, upon entering the chaotic fray of the narrow, winding alleys, I couldn’t be bothered referring to my meticulous notes. I surrendered my senses to the sights, sounds and smells of the market and let my appetite lead the way to a simple ramen stand.
Watching the master carefully portion the noodles and slices of pork into the steaming broth excited me so much that I began dancing on the spot in anticipation. Did my little noodle-jig earn me some odd looks from passersby? Naturally, but I also attracted the attention of a random local who evidently thought I was too homeless to afford my own bowl and kindly offered me some of his. Initially I was touched by the sentiment (albeit weirded out). That is until later on a friend informed me that some people have a fetish for watching women slurp ramen.
What a coincidence! I love eating noodles and that man had a fetish for watching women eat noodles. Knowing that I missed out on connecting with my potential soulmate in the middle of the Tsukiji Market will haunt me for the rest of my days…
Other than soulmates, keep reading to find out what else you can find in the Tsukiji Outer Market and everything else you need to know before going.
The 411 on Tsukiji Market:
The Tsukiji Market as it was known in past is no longer. Having migrated to the shiny, new Toyosu Market a mere 2km away, it has taken the infamous pre-sunrise tuna auction and wholesale market along with it. However, a visit to the bustling outer market is still worth a coveted spot on your Tokyo bucket list for many mouth-watering reasons.
If we’re being honest,
I’m more interested in eating ALL THE FOODS than in waking up at the butt crack of dawn to see people bid for smelly tuna carcasses anyways.
The Tsukiji Outer Market, with its narrow alleys and rickety wooden shacks, still holds plenty of charm for those who love sushi, seafood and eating in general. Comprised of over 300 shops and restaurants that practically overlap each other, the market offers everything from fresh AF thinly sliced sashimi to designer produce to professional-grade kitchenware.
What should I eat at the Tsukiji Outer Market?
Attempting to piece together a “Best Of” list for the Tsukiji Fish Market seems like a practice in futility. There are so many stalls and shops that it’d be impossible to try it all. The quality in Japan is far and above what you’d find anywhere else so you can’t really go wrong with anything you eat in the market.
The best strategy is to go with an empty stomach (luckily mine always feels this way) and an open mind. Wander around and gravitate towards whatever catches your eye/stomach. My general rule of thumb is to take note of where the locals congregate. It’s usually a good indicator of quality.
Tips for Visiting Tsukiji Market:
😋 Make sure you go hungry!
🌅 Go early because most shops close by midday
📅 Try going on a weekday to avoid crowds
💵 Bring cash and smaller coins (small shops don’t take credit card)
🗑️ Bring a little plastic bag to hold your trash
How To Get To The Tsukiji Outer Market:
Tsukiji Outer Market is located a short walk from either Tsukiji Shijo Station (via the Oedo Subway Line) or Tsukiji Station (via the Hibiya Subway Line). If you’re taking the JR Rail, get off at Shimbashi Station and it’s about a 20 minute walk. Make sure to refresh your Google maps and take the train at the exact time it’s listed.
If you’re not staying near the market, it’s a little out of the way. To optimize the journey there, schedule your time slot for teamLab Planets to be later that afternoon. The digital museum is an absolute MUST if you’re in Tokyo. If you have time to kill before that, wander around the Toyosu Market as teamLab Planets is conveniently under Toyosu Station.
What To Eat In The Tsukiji Outer Market:
Beef Guts Gyudon
Who doesn’t want beef intestines in the morning?! The organ stew at Kitsuneya is legendary and as a lover of all things questionable food-wise – tendons, meat jellies, chicken feet – I was totally game.
Served over rice and topped with shredded leeks, the gooey innards are stewed in miso till they are melt-in-your mouth delicious. Is this description grossing you out or making you drool?
I love noodles in any way they come whether it’s in a Michelin star establishment or served in a styrofoam cup à la Cup Noodle. While indulging at Kitsuneya I spotted crowds of locals flocking to a ramen shop right next door.
Wakaba dishes out a no-nonsense ramen with a light shoyu (soy sauce) broth, slices of chashu pork, bamboo and green onion that you can slurp up shoulder-to-shoulder with locals at standing tables nearby. Very simple yet satisfying morning ramen!
This was the most shockingly delicious thing I had in Tsukiji was an iced soy matcha latte at this zen minimalist stand.
After paying inside at Matcha Stand Maruni, you are ushered to stand outside the shop to witness your drink being prepared in the proper way. The vibrant green matcha is whisked into a froth then poured into a mixture of soy, ice and sugar cane syrup. Just sweet enough to balance out the bitter matcha!
Love eel? Scallops? No need to choose because there are skewers aplenty at Tsukiji. Grab a perfectly grilled choice piece of eel to-go or plump scallops assembled three to a stick for a mere 200-300 JPY. Note the smoky flavour from being roasted over a grill and finished off with a mini blow torch.
You can’t go to a fish market without eating sushi! Ok, so I did but since I had already visited some prime omakase establishments, prime real estate in my belly was reserved for all the delights I had yet to try in Japan.
If eating sushi is a priority for you, snag choice pieces of nigiri along the street or take a seat and rest your feet in one of the many shops advertising bowls of mouthwatering sashimi. Tuck into a vibrant kaisen-don, a bowl of rice brimming with savoury ikura, uni, and thin slices of salmon and luscious cuts of tuna.
When it comes to this spiky delicacy of the sea, you either love, love, LOVE uni….or you hate it. No one is really on the fence about it. The incredibly complex flavours that are at once creamy, salty and naturally bitter, are definitely an acquired taste. But when it comes to the Tsukiji Market, uni lovers rejoice! You can pretty much find freshly cracked uni on every corner for about 500 JPY.
Sold in various sizes for between 400 – 1000 JPY, I bypassed the relatively baby oysters in favour of the frighteningly gigantic 800 JPY monster. Go big or go home, right? I regret nothing. And hell if I was going to waste such an expensive oyster by slurping it down in one go! Served with a splash of soy, it was so creamy and rich, it could’ve been spread on toast.
I have never been so grateful for fruit in my life after visiting Japan. A single strawberry can go for as much as 800 JPY! In Japan, fruits are cultivated with the same precision and dedication that the Japanese approach everything and are regarded as luxury items instead of merely a healthy snack. To be fair, it’s so sweet and juicy that it makes the price tag a little more understandable.
Having a sweet omelette may not sound very appetizing but indulging in some tamago – a Tsukiji market specialty (apart from the seafood) – will change your mind. The mixture of fresh egg, umami-filled daishi broth and sugar are painstakingly layered in thin sheets (like a crepe cake) before folded into a tube shape for immediate consumption.
With queues running out the door and down the road, Tsukiji Yamachō seems to be the most popular shop to get this delicious treat!
Bonus Points! Uni on Wagyu Beef
Of course, when in Japan, you have to be super extra so check out the huge slab of wagyu beef covered in sumptuous, velvety uni. I personally don’t have a spare 10,000 JPY lying around for this kind of luxury (especially after this trip!) but if you are willing to shell out the cash, let me know if it was worth it.
People also rave about:
+ Corn fishcake skewers from Ajino Hamato but by time I found this little nugget I was just too full to eat it. I took it away as a snack but I feel like it was probably better when eaten hot.
+ Bakudan, onigiri with a soft-boiled egg in the middle of the rice from Marutoyo but by time I arrived, they were sold out.
If you’re currently planning a trip to Japan, what are you most looking forward to? Been to the Tsukiji Market already? What was your favourite treat that you’ve eaten there? I’d love to know so let me know in the comments below!
If you’re going to Japan for the first time, here are some essential tips for you to take note of before going.
Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!