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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Here's what we're covering:
- From Tsukiji to Toyosu
- The New Toyosu Fish Market
- Ways You Can Watch The Tuna Auction
- 5 Steps To Apply For Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction Tour
- What if you missed your lottery application?
- Tips For Getting to Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction
- Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Japan Trip Planning Essentials
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- JR Pass – The two most reliable places we always check are JRailPass and JRPass. If you are taking long distance Shinkansen across multiple region, get the full JR Pass. If you’re focusing on one specific area, you only need a JR regional pass.
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- Hotels/Ryokans – In Japan, the best website for accommodations, hands down is Agoda. When we’ve compared them against Booking, Agoda consistently came out cheaper.
- Pocket Wifi – While we do love eSIMs, having a pocket wifi is great for sharing data with a large group. The most popular is NinjaWifi which is easy to pick up at the airport. Use code AWESOME15 to save 15% (automatically applied). Alternatives are offered by JRPass and JRailPass but they aren’t as cheap. For a more global solution, consider Solis and PokeFi.
- eSIM – The best one is Airalo. Save money by getting the Japan region eSIM and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.
- Car Rental – Big companies like Budget, Avis, and Enterprise operate in Japan but they’re usually the most expensive. The best companies are the local Japanese ones such as Toyota Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, Orix Rentacar, Nissan Rentacar, and Times Car Rental. To make things easier, use Rentalcars and Klook to compare prices all in one place. Don’t forget, you need an IDP to drive in Japan!
- Learn Japanese – It helps to know even a bit of the language before you go. Start your learning with Rosetta Stone Japanese.
- Cash or credit – Cash is still very important to have in Japan but when you use credit cards, make sure you’re not getting charged those extra exchange rate fees. The best card right now is the Wise Multi-Currency Card which is actually a debit card where you can convert at favorable rates beforehand. This cuts out any sneaky transaction fees.
- Travel Insurance – Make sure you’re covered in case something happens. Get quotes from Insured Nomads and if you’re from Canada, get quotes from RATESDOTCA.
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 itself, Toyosu Fish Market designed this so that 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.
Where it’s not as good as how it was with Tsukiji Fish Market 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.
Officially, they now call this the Toyosu Market Tuna Auction Tour. To have access to this, you need to apply online through their lottery system. More on this below.
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 Tour
So exactly how do you apply to the Toyosu Fish Market tuna auction observation deck? The process to get into limited entry observation deck is through a lottery system that’s done online.
In April 2023, a brand new website was built that’s dedicated to the Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction and the observation deck. This website is now fully in English and thankfully a more streamlined process.
Important details when applying for the lottery
Before we get into the steps, it’s worth summarizing a few key details for the lottery.
- You have to submit your lottery bid one month in advance (no earlier or later).
- The lottery window is 7 days, typically starting in the first week of the month.
- You are able to prioritize 3 dates.
- Your lottery application can be for up to 5 people.
- Entry into the lottery is completely free.
- You won’t be able to change the date you “win”.
- You can only make one submission. You also cannot have different representatives in your group apply as there’s a chance that your group may get rejected.
- The 1 week lottery window gives everyone a fair shot to get the dates that they want. This means that it is not first-come-first-serve.
Step 1: Determine the lottery entry period
The lottery for the Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction happens 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 main page.
The lottery application window itself varies from month to month but it usually starts at some point in first week of the month and you’ll have the opportunity to submit your entry within a 7 day window.
This is also the homepage and if you scroll down, you’ll see all of the available days that you are available to bid for, including their start times (5:30AM).
As we discussed earlier, there are 3 groups of 40 that get onto the deck 10 minutes at a time between 5:45AM and 6:15AM.
FAQ: Is this free? Yes, there is no cost to apply or to go to Toyosu Fish Market Tuna Auction.
Step 2: Initial steps of the lottery application
From the bottom of the home page, click on the button that says “application procedure”.
This will take you the application process which starts with agreeing to all of the notes about how the process works and rules.
Next, you’ll enter and confirm your e-mail address.
This is the screen you’ll see after you submit your e-mail address.
Finally, you’ll receive an e-mail that contains a unique link that allows you to continue the application. This will come from [email protected] so make sure your e-mail provider doesn’t block them or is sent to spam.
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.
Step 3: Fill out the lottery application form and select preferences
This is the main lottery application form where you’ll be entering:
- Your first, second, and third choices in terms of dates for the tour.
- Your personal details
- Enter a password for your account (They only accept 6-16 length alphanumeric characters and no special characters)
- Selecting the number of people the application is for
- Entering the names of the additional people
NOTE: Make sure to enter the names according to how it is displayed on the passport.
The below is the pop up that will appear that will allow you to pick which date you’d like to select.
FAQ: What if I can only go on one day? You don’t have to fill out all 3 choices.
It’ll refresh to a confirmation page and then you’ll have to click on the “Application” button.
A new page will appear and confirms your application.
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 posting
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.
Click on the link and it’ll take you to the Toyosu Fish Market website. After you log in, you’ll see the results of the lottery and with luck, your “1st choice”.
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.
- Make sure Print the confirmation email.
- Remember to bring your 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.
VIP Tuna Auction and Special Access 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. 4 hour duration.
Luxury Sushi Class and Special Access at Toyosu Fish Market – This is a unique tour that combines a visit with the master chef in the wholesale area (not open to the public), followed by a sushi-making class. 4 hour duration.
Toyosu Market and Tsukiji Food Tour with Government-Licensed Guide – This is a 4 hour tour that combines the new Toyosu with the old Tsukiji. This is with a licensed guide but note that they won’t take you to the tuna auction observation deck and only the observation windows.
Fish Market Food Tour in Tokyo – Another tour that runs for 3 hours that doesn’t include the tuna auction but they cover both Toyosu and Tsukiji fish markets.
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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 no means 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Toyosu Fish Market is currently reopened to the public post-pandemic. You must wear a mask, disinfect your hands, and your temperature will be taken.
3 groups of 40 can get in for 10 minutes at a time between 5:45AM and 6:15AM
Lottery applications open for roughly 10 days each month, for a spot the following month. Pay attention to the official tuna auction page (translate the page from Japanese to English) as the schedule changes month to month.
The fish market building where the tuna auction occurs each morning is open from 5AM – 5PM.
The inner market which was the commercial part of the market has now moved to Toyosu Fish Market since October 2018. However, the outer market where you find retail shops, restaurants, and small seafood markets are open to the public.
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!
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