How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel

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Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market is a fascinating place. It’s also a tricky one to recommend to families with young children. You love Japanese food and you know that Tsukiji sushi is some of the best in the world. Now, do you know how to visit Tsukiji Fish Market with kids? I mean, this place is pretty amazing, but it ain’t exactly Disneyland.

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel tuna-being cut at tsukiji fish market

HOW TO VISIT TSUKIJI FISH MARKET WITH KIDS

In this piece, I will explain how to visit Tsukiji Fish Market with kids. You can find lots of posts about this famous fish market. However, the usual perspective is from young backpackers ticking off their bucket list of cultural trophies. Nothing wrong with that, but parents may approach the Tsukiji Market differently.

All of the below tips and advice can be used by any type of traveler, really, but I wrote some of it specifically for those visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market with kids. Of course, these are just my opinions. Feel free to disagree or do it your own way.

Read: Our MEGA Guide for Tokyo with Kids

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How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids Japan Family Travel

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Fish Store Display

During my 12+ years living in Tokyo, I went to Tsukiji Fish Market during the early hours maybe seven or eight times. It wasn’t far from my old neighborhood, actually. The kids went with me the last four times, and I’m sure that we’ll go again the next time we visit Tokyo.

You should definitely visit Tsukiji Fish Market with kids, but how you do it may affect how much you and your children enjoy it.

Tsukiji Fish Market attracts foodies and other tourists, but it is not set up for visitors. At all.

UNDERSTAND WHAT THE TSUKIJI FISH MARKET IS

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Fish Market Ceiling

Sure, Tsukiji is a market, but the word “market” often calls up romantic images of sun-dappled stalls and colorful produce glistening in the morning light like the ones in Valencia. This is not the Tsukiji Fish Market. There’s a lot of passion wrapped up in what the people do here, and they take it very seriously.

This place is all business. Everyone is hustling. Knives are carving, carts are rolling and people are carrying huge boxes this way and that. The floors can be slick and there are sharp corners here and there.

Tsukiji is not the morning markets of southern France. This is an old warehouse full of mini-forklifts speeding crates of ice and fish from one place to the next.

But you know what? Tsukiji is beautiful. It’s also cold, fast-paced and requires your full attention, but beautiful, nonetheless.

Have I deterred you? No? Good. You should most certainly visit Tsukiji Fish Market. Most of you, anyway. I’m emphasizing the hazards to see if you’re really up for it. The Tsukiji Market is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a great cultural and culinary experience, but it won’t welcome you with open arms, so I think it’s best for kids and parents to arrive prepared. I’d rather you leave thinking “Gee, that wasn’t so bad!” instead of “Holy crap, why didn’t anyone warn us?”

I hope that the below instructions will help you understand how to best enjoy the Tsukiji Fish Market with kids.

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How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids Japan Family Travel PIN

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE TSUKIJI MARKET

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Alley

Study up

What fish & seafood do your kids like to eat? Which creatures from the ocean do you expect to see? Do you know their names in Japanese (hiragana & kanji)? Look them up beforehand. Maybe even write them down in a notepad to bring along. Use Google and Flickr to check out images of fish and the market so you know what you’ll see and what to look for. Show the kids this trailer for the 2016 Tsukiji documentary.*

*that documentary preview says the market is moving in November 2016. This is no longer the case.

Stay near the Tsukiji Market

No matter what time you plan to go to the Tsukiji fish market, I recommend finding accommodation near the market itself even if it’s just for one night. In the morning, you can either walk or take a short taxi ride to the front entrance. With sleepy kids (and adults), it’s easier to be dropped off at Tsukiji at 6 am than it is to try and navigate multiple train lines. Otherwise, I’ve added the subway information at the end of the post.

Hotels near Tsukiji Market: include Ginza CrestonAPA Hotel Tsukiji-eki MinamiTokyu Stay Ginza, and Hotel Amanek Ginza East.

Read: Our Guide to Best Family Hotels in Tokyo

Make sure it’s open

Before you make your plans, check the Tsukiji Market calendar to make sure they’ll be open on the day you plan to go.

I made the mistake of not checking once. An old college buddy was visiting me in Tokyo, and I drug him out of bed at 4 am. We arrived and the market was closed. It would have taken me two minutes to check the Tsukiji site. I never made that mistake again.

For the record, the Tsukiji Fish Market always closes on Sundays. In fact, some sushi and sashimi aficionados in Japan never eat at sushi restaurants that open on Sundays (it means the fish wasn’t brought in that morning).

The fate of the Tsukiji Fish Market

Also, understand that the Tsukiji Market is in an unpredictable state. At the time of writing, parts of the market are open to tourists from 10 am, but that could change. At least once a year, the market is shut off to visitors because of some jerk (always a tourist) flagrantly breaks the rules and ruins it for the rest of us.

What did the tourist do? It could be any number of things. Maybe they weren’t watching where they were going and knocked over someone’s trays of fish. Maybe they were loud and obnoxious during the auction (wouldn’t be the first time) or took flash photos, which they were explicitly told not to. I remember once a tourist kissed a hawker’s fish for a selfie. Anything like this could be the catalyst for week-long a tourist ban. Possibly longer.

Then there is the fate of the fish market’s location itself. For years, the most famous fish market in Japan was supposed to move from Tsukiji to a different location, but a variety of factors have held that up. This could change, but at the time of writing, the Tokyo’s Mayor has postponed moving the market indefinitely Tsukiji Market will move to Toyosu in October 2018.

If you want to go, check to make sure it’s actually there and that it’s open that day.

Dress appropriately

Flip-flops and open-toe sandals are banned at Tsukiji, and for a good reason: it’s unsafe. It can get chaotic in there, with trucks and carts flying around, and some of those boxes holding the fish might have a protruding nail or other sharp edges. The floor is slippery in places and there are dips and bumps on the floor and tubes in odd places where you walk.

It can also be quite cold in there, and not only in the tuna auction. Even in the summer months, bring an extra shirt or light jacket.

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Fish Market Motorized Cart

Leave the stroller & luggage at the hotel

Tourists aren’t allowed to carry anything big or bulky into the Tsukiji Market. You need to be nimble, anyway, and some of the places you’re walking aren’t stroller-friendly at all.

Can your kids handle themselves?

The Tsukiji Fish Market is an active worksite. The fish wholesale area can get quite busy. Would you bring your kid to a construction site? And if so, would you hold his/her hand?

I won’t suggest an age limit for visiting here because every child’s abilities are different. Just make sure that the kiddos can keep their hands to themselves and keep an eye out for forklifts, fast-moving boxes and those cool little carts that everyone is driving around.

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Vegetables Store

Too much for your kids? No worries. Stick to the outside market, the fruit and vegetable market and by all means, eat some sushi nearby. If you’re traveling with a partner, take turns walking into the wholesale area while one of you takes the kids through the slower part of the famous fish market. After walking in on your own, you may decide that the kids can swing it. It slows down a lot between 9 & 10 am, anyway.

Skip Tuna Auction

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Tuna Auction Blur

Seriously. Skip it, or at least go by yourself. This is not how to enjoy a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. In fact, it’s not how I enjoy it on my own, either. I say this with the utmost respect to the buyers and sellers — if anything, I could say that for them: they really don’t want you there in the first place, but that’s beside the point.

I’ve been to the tuna auctions twice, both were long before the new sets of rules which require you to get there earlier and wait for longer. Even without these restrictions, I left the auction wondering why I wasted my time.

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Tuna Auction

This may sound controversial, but your kids might see experience the auctions just like I did. You wake at 3 am or earlier so you can be there by 4 am, then you sit and wait for hours in the cold. After that, you walk into a cold room to watch a handful of men fondle some dead fish, ring a bell and shout for a few minutes.

Besides, the appeal of seeing big tuna is ending — they’ve been overfished to the point where the massive ones are increasingly rare.

Most kids don’t want to be subjected to this. So spare them. Instead, you should all sleep a few more hours and then show up later. Seriously, skip the tuna auctions with kids. I’m not even going to tell you how to do it solo — there are plenty of other blogs that can fill you in.

TIPS: HOW TO ENJOY A VISIT TO TSUKIJI MARKET WITH KIDS

So you’ve arrived at the market at a more reasonable hour of 5:30 am or 6 am. What now? My recommendations below.

How to Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel Tsukiji Serving Sushi

Eat First

If you plan to eat sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market — and you totally should — go ahead and do it now. If the Tsukiji Market opening hours remain the same, then the market won’t technically be open to tourists until 9 am (there are ways around that, but I won’t advise you on it).

The best places for sushi are in the buildings near the market loading docks. If you want to eat at the most famous sushi spots here, plan to arrive at 5 am and wait for hours.

However here’s a little secret: all of the sushi places here are great.

Just because some guidebook or website tells you that this one or that one is the best, doesn’t mean that you have to wait in line for 2 hours to get great sushi. The difference between eating at the best sushi place in the world and the second or third best can be several hours of waiting. And come on: are you really going to tell the difference at this culinary level?

How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel
How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel

For example, Sushi Dai is one of those sushi shops where many people wait hours to be seated. You’ll see the line when you arrive. I have eaten at Sushi Dai. I have eaten at the one next door to Sushi Dai, and I’ve eaten at another around the corner. You know what? They were all amazing. These places often have lines as well, but they are almost always significantly shorter.

If your kids don’t like sushi or are too hungry to wait, then feed them at one of the other many restaurants around. Lots are open at this time. In fact, there is a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) shop right next to Sushi Dai and it is amazing. They often have fried fish, as well.

Watch Your Step

It’s hard to describe the Tsukiji Market in the morning if you’ve never been there, but I can assure you, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. People are working here, and they’re handling knives, slinging boxes and driving small trucks between the stalls — sometimes very quickly.

Hold small kids by the hands, and stay to the side in pathways both wide and narrow whenever possible.

Don’t Miss Our MEGA Guide on Tokyo for Kids

Respect the workplace

Remember that these guys are working while you’re here, so try to stay out of the way. Unless you speak fluent Japanese and have a real, relevant question, leave them alone, and don’t touch anything.

Remember: don’t follow the rules = get thrown out of the market. That goes for kids, too.

I know that none of my dear readers would ever cause any problems. This is a family travel blog after all — the only drunken degenerate here is me, I’m guessing. However, you can also get thrown out for bothering employees, or if your kids put their hands on something or take a flash photo of the wrong guy. Don’t be paranoid. Just be careful and aware.

HOW TO GET TO THE TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel

There are two main subway stations to consider when you visit Tsukiji Fish Market:

First trains leave from Tsukiji Shijo Station (Oedo line) and Tsukiji Station (Hibiya line) at 5:20 am and at 5:02 am, respectively.

Best Tour to Experience Tsukiji Fish Market

It most certainly helps to take a tour to Tsukiji Fish Market to understand better around surroundings. Here are several tours you can consider.

MORE TOURS
Food Tour of Tsukiji Fish Market

Sushi Making and Tsukiji Fish Market Morning Tour from Tokyo

Tokyo Tsukiji Outer Market Walking Tour and Rolled Sushi Class

Half-day Food and Drink Walking Tour in Tsukiji and Asakusa

Tsukiji Fish Market Visit with Sushi Making Experience

DID YOU VISIT TSUKIJI FISH MARKET WITH KIDS?

What was your experience? Have I exaggerated the perils? What time did you arrive? Where did you eat? How long did you wait? What did your kids think of it all? What’s your favorite sushi?

How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel
How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel
How to Visit Tsukiji Fish Market with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel. We hope you visit Tsukiji fish market with kids or on your own. If you did visit Tsukiji fish market and used our tips, please let us know!

Image credits: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5#7, #8, #9#14, #15, #16, #17

Comments

  1. I am so happy to find this blog.
    We are a family of four (kids age 2yrs old and 12yrs old)
    My kids aren’t really picky with food and they love going to our local market with us even if it smells really bad haha
    Our kids are not fussy but im afraid japanese people will find it “rude” if we bring them to eat maybe at Sushi Dai.
    We usually travel carrying our baby in a Tula baby carrier, so I guess it’s ok to bring them there. So glad to stumble on your blog.

    • As you’ll see, most of the people eating at Sushi Day early morning *aren’t* Japanese….they’re tourists and travelers like you. As for the carrier, that’s your only option — strollers not allowed. But keep in mind it is very narrow in there. Also, make sure the kids get enough sleep the night before!

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