The Toyosu Fish Market is finally open and you’re probably here because you’re trying to figure out, whether it is the same process as Tsukiji Fish Market to see the live tuna auction? Well I have some good and bad news. There’s no longer the need to wake up ridiculously in line to queue for a spot but instead there’s a lottery application you have to apply for online. Having done it myself, it’s a super easy process but let me walk you through the steps for how to apply to the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction observatory deck.
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From Tsukiji to Toyosu
For the longest time, Tsukiji Fish Market was a must-do activity in Tokyo. As the biggest fish and seafood market in the world, it was a place that pumped through an average of 5 million pounds of seafood daily translating to $28 USD million. Some of the largest tuna have been auctioned off here and as a tourist attraction, it’s only gotten hotter and hotter. The prized activity is to be able to be at the daily tuna auction.
The first time I was in Tokyo, we had to make two separate attempts at Tsukiji. The first time, we showed up too late and all the vests were given away. The second attempt, we made sure we got to Tsukiji at 4AM and we got in. It was truly a unique experience because we were escorted to the auction floor in the warehouse and were enthralled by the mystery of the rows of frozen tuna, ringing of a bell, and secret hand signals.
After years of saying a move to a newer and modern facility, it was hit by delays but the brand spankin’ new Toyosu Fish Market (豊洲市場, Toyosu Shijō) finally opened on October 11, 2018. On the man-made island of Toyosu in the Bay of Tokyo, a much more expansive and up to the rigours of today’s demands. Just to give you an idea, Toyosu is 70% larger than Tsukiji’s Inner Market.
The New Toyosu Fish Market
While Tsukiji’s Outer Market still remains, all of the tuna auctioning happens at Toyosu Fish Market in the Fish Wholesale Market Building. In addition, Toyosu has a Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building and Fruit and Vegetable Market Building.
Fish Wholesale Market Building
This is mostly closed to the public since this is where serious seafood wholesaling happens but this is where you get a chance to bid for a spot to watch the tuna auction every morning. This auction takes place between 5:30AM and 6:30AM and it’s an experience that opened on January 15, 2019.
Within the building, you have a hall for tuna auctions and another hall for other seafood. There are 3 ways to watch the auction which is very different from how it was at Tsukiji Fish Market. More on that in the next section.
This also houses a few small restaurants as well.
Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building
This is the second phase of the seafood business where wholesalers have storefronts and sell to licensed buyers. This area is off-limits to regular buildings but what’s different about this one is that there are several upper floors here that are designed for visitors.
For visitors, you’ll find the largest restaurant area where one of the top two sushi spots, Sushi Dai, is located. You’ll also find a few window openings to see the action happening down below. Lastly, there’s the Uogashi Yokocho Market which is a big shopping area with many stalls and shops open to the public.
At the very top of the building is a rooftop garden that’s a good place to grab a seat and take in the waterfront views of Tokyo Bay.
Fruit and Vegetable Market Building
This building is dedicated to the non-seafood items of fruits and vegetables. On the main floor there’s an auction hall and wholesale market that’s off-limits. There are several observation windows available if you want to catch a glimpse of the action.
Notable are the restaurants that are near the entrance of the building. This is where you’ll find Daiwa Sushi, another hyper popular sushi restaurant that’s in all of the guides that also made the move to Toyosu Fish Market.
Ways You Can Watch The Tuna Auction
Okay now that you know the basics of Toyosu Market, let’s get into what you really want to know about which is, how the heck do I get to watch a tuna auction live and in-person like you used to at Tsukiji Fish Market? Luckily, the architects and designers had a bit of foresight to build in a number of ways you can do it. Here’s how you can watch the tuna action early in the morning.
Tuna Auction Observation Deck [the one you need to apply for]
This is the best way to watch the tuna auction. While it is no longer on the floor, you’re on the second floor looking down at the action. What makes this a premium location is because 1) sound makes its way onto the deck so you can hear everything and 2) a lottery application is required and so only 3 groups of 40 can get in for 10 minutes at a time between 5:45AM and 6:15AM.
What sucks is that there is still glass that separates you from what’s happening down below so you’ll still be dealing with bad reflections when it comes to photos.
Tuna Auction Observation Windows [the one you can just casually show up for]
There are windows scattered on the upper level corridor (technically level 3) which allows you to look down at the tuna auction but the big difference here is that the glass completely seals you from the sounds and smells of what’s happening below.
Similar to the Observation Deck, you’ll also find it challenging to take photos because of the reflection.
What is nice about the Observation Windows is that you do get a very nice top down view of the spread of tuna down below which is difficult todo from the Observation Deck.
Seafood Auction Observation Windows [if you don’t care for tuna and casually show up for]
I’m throwing this in here for completion but these are same as the observation windows for tuna except in the seafood section where they wholesale everything but tuna. You can easily tell the difference because the floor in the seafood auction is grey while for tuna, the floor is green.
Honestly though, when you get to this part of the observation window level, there’s not much to see. On the day we were there, all we could see were stacks of styrofoam boxes. No action at all.
5 Steps To Apply For Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction
So exactly how do you apply to the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction observation deck? Here’s a step-by-step breakdown.
Step 1: Check the advanced reservation schedule
Toyosu Market is always looking for lottery applications one month in advance. So if the current month is May, you’ll be bidding for June. The window where you can make your advanced reservation is very specific and announced on the Japanese page.
This page will have information on when the application period and also when the results are announced via e-mail. Since the page is in Japanese, just translate the page to English and it’ll be pretty clear at the top.
FAQ: Is this free? Yes, there is no cost to apply or to go to Toyosu Fish Market.
Step 2: Head to overseas visitor page
At first, I was fooled by the Japanese page and I started filling out the application form from the button you might see in Step 1. Don’t fill this out.
There’s a simplified form for foreigners that is quite easy to fill out that will be available once the application period opens up. Just click on the link below to take you straight there.
FAQ: Is the lottery first come first serve? No – this means that it doesn’t mean if you fill out the form earlier in the period or later. Everyone has an equal chance.
What you need to have to know prior to filling it out are your dates of preference from Choice #1, #2, and #3. What you’ll notice is that you don’t pick your time slots. I mentioned earlier that there are 3 groups of 40 that get onto the deck 10 minutes at a time between 5:45AM and 6:15AM. You don’t get to pick what time slot you’re in. Everyone just gathers at 5:30AM and it’s all randomized at that point.
The other thing you need to be ready with are the full names of everyone going as they show up on the passport.
Step 3: Fill out the form and select preferences
Once you’re in the form, you’ll be filling out a number of basic details in either text fields or selection radio buttons.
Be prepared to have the following details ready:
- Your preferences for your top 3 date choices – it is mandatory to pick 3 (note Toyosu is closed on Sunday and holidays)
- Everyone’s full names as they appear on their passports
FAQ: What if I can only go on one day? Since the form makes 3 selections mandatory, just make sure your first pick the day you can go, and pick random days for others.
Once you hit “Confirmation”, you’ll have everything repeated back to you and it will look like this.
Hit the “Application” button and you’ll see this final confirmation on the page.
Step 4: Check confirmation e-mail
You’ll more or less immediately receive an e-mail from Toyosu Fish Market that confirms your lottery application and this is what it looks like.
Step 5: Wait for lottery results e-mail
It’ll feel like a long wait especially if you put in your picks at the beginning of the application period but eventually you’ll receive an e-mail with your personal results.
For us, you can see that we got our first choice and it worked out quite well. One of the big advantages of this system is that it takes away the stress of waking up ridiculously early in hopes to beat out everyone us wanting to go see the tuna auction.
Major points to note:
- Meeting point: 3rd Floor in the Fish Wholesale Market Building (don’t let Block 7 throw you off, it’s just the numbered alternative to the building name)
- Meeting time: 5:30AM – account for extra time to find the building and floor
- Print the confirmation email
- Make sure everyone brings their Passport/IDs
What if you missed your lottery application?
If you’ve read this article a little too late and you just found out that there’s no way to apply to have your chance at the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction observation deck, fear not, there are still options on the table.
Show up anyways and watch from the observation windows
As I mentioned above, the Tuna Auction Observation Windows does not require any application to access and opens to visitors at 5AM where typically auction preparations are well underway. Do prepare to get there earlier though as it does fill up.
Book a private tour
If you’re still feeling the FOMO, my top recommendation would be to book one of the following tours offered. Each one is a little different so I’ll let you decide which one works for you.
Tuna Auction Viewing & Insider Tour at Toyosu Fish Market – This gives you access to the tuna auction with an English guide who can provide detailed commentary of what you’re seeing. In addition, you’ll get insider access to the Fish Wholesale Area which normally is off limits to visitors. 3 hour duration.
Special Access Insider Tour at Toyosu or Tsukiji Fish Market – While this tour doesn’t give you access to the tuna auction, it does give you exclusive access to the wholesale area of Toyosu Fish Market. 2.5 hour duration.
Fish & Soul: Insider Tour at Toyosu Fish Market – Another tour that doesn’t include the tuna auction but they give you access to the off-limits Fish Wholesale Area. What’s different about this one is that it includes lunch at your guide/chef’s selected restaurant. 5 hour duration.
Tips For Getting to Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction
So how do you get to Toyosu Fish Market? For those that are planning to attend the tuna auction, you’ll have to figure out a way to get there. Here are the best ways.
Stay near the fish market
One thing you have to realize is that the subways and trains only start running around 5:00AM so if you get accepted to see the tuna auction on the observation deck, it’s really tight when it comes to taking public transit.
The smart thing to do is to actually plan for a night right by the Toyosu Fish Market and walk there in the morning.
These are the 4 closest hotels to the fish market.
This is your chance to try a capsule hotel which you have to do at least once. The property features personal lockers and luggage storage on-site. If you’re looking for a 2-bed capsule private room, they have that too.
A hotel that is on the affordable end of things with 24 hour front desk, private bathroom, free toiletries and rooms equipped with kettles, AC, and TV. A really good breakfast is included with the price.
Grab a taxi early in the morning
For most people, the only way to get to Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction before 5:30AM will be to take a taxi. As many know, taxis in Tokyo aren’t exactly cheap but with such an early morning start, you will likely have to resort to hailing a cab especially for those that are a bit of a distance away.
To give you an idea of how much it costs, the starting fare is 430 JPY for the first 1.059 km. Afterwards, every 237 metres is an additional 80 JPY. On top of that, if the speed of the car drops down to 10 km/h, it’s 90 JPY per 1:45 minutes. That probably all sounds like gibberish but as an example, if you’re riding from Shinjuku to Toyosu, you’re looking at 6,164 JPY ($55 USD).
This doesn’t include the night time surcharge. Between 11PM and 5AM, there’s another 30% added on. It isn’t cheap but you might not have a choice.
TIP: Make sure to ask your driver to drop you of a Shijo-Mae Station as they aren’t allowed to drop people in front of the market gates.
So what about Uber? Well yes, Uber does operate in Tokyo but it is really more a taxi-hailing app than an exclusive fleet of drivers. The consensus is that Uber is more expensive than regular cabs. The only exception is during night hours from 10PM to 5AM where Tokyo taxis normally add a 20% surcharge, Uber does not. Types include Uber Black, Black Van, Taxi, and TaxiLux. Last thing to consider is that their fleet is much smaller than what you think it should be.
What if you’re a group of 5 or more? That’s when it gets doubly complicated. Most taxis in Tokyo are the standard ones that are a maximum of 4 passengers. For Uber, you’re looking at a Black Van but if you’re hailing on the street, you’ll likely be out of luck.
Book a car service
In my search for taxi options, I stumbled on a few services that you can look at that are essentially pre-booked taxis or car services. The one I found that was more English friendly was at MK Tokyo taxi service where you can book van for up to 6 people. Simply e-mail them directly and ask for a quote.
To give you an idea, Shinjuku to Toyosu Market at 4:30AM costs a total of $8,950 JPY (~$80 USD).
While it is by means not a cheap solution, I like the fact that I can have this all pre-booked in English so there’s no confusion on the day of.
Take the subway
No doubt the cheapest way to get to Toyosu is by rail. The challenge of course is that it only opens at 5AM or later for most stations in Tokyo and Toyosu Station on the Yurikamome Line opens at 5:15AM. From there, the ride to Shijo-Mae station is only 3 minutes.
When would you take the subway? If you need to make it to the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction by 5:30AM, your window of making it is very small and will only apply to those in a certain radius of Tokyo. Ideally, you’re on the Yurakucho Line with Tokyo Metro with a station that has their first train close to 5AM.
Ride a bike
Now talk about getting creative. If you’re staying close enough and your accommodations offer bicycle rentals or you rent one the day before, this is something you could consider.
First things first, there are no bicycle parking spots at Toyosu Market at all but there is an underground bicycle parking lot at Toyosu Station.
I hope this guide for how to apply to the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction observation deck in Tokyo was valuable and I wish you the best of luck! It’s a great experience and although it might not be as good as how it was at Tsukiji, I still highly recommend it for any first timers to Tokyo. Do you have experiences from Toyosu that you’d like to share? Just drop a comment down below!