We opted out of the 5AM tuna auction, instead heading to the Tsukiji fish market after the bustle of the wholesale event subsided.
Throngs of tourists from all over the world purchased overpriced raw fish–often grossly overpriced–from the vendors and restaurants in the sprawling outer market that surrounds the more famous indoor wholesale section.
I only slightly regret not visiting the tuna auction. Originally slated to move at the end of 2016, the wholesale section is now rumored to be staying for a while, anyway.
One of our favorite sections of the outer market was the specialty vendors like these selling one item like bonito or dried seafood products cured in sake lees.
If you want to see the wholesale section in action, tuna auction or not, try to get there around 6AM or at least before 8AM, when things do start to shut down. By 9 or 10, the market is in clean-up mode.
Unless you’ve never had good sushi in your life, we do not recommend waiting for hours in line with the other tourists for the restaurants surrounding the market. A mere glance at these restaurants, with their conspicuous lack of local patrons and staid-looking sushi sets, will tell the more seasoned eater that there are better places to go in this fish-friendly city. But visiting the market itself is a true treat and can inspire appreciation for the massive amount of work that goes into that next piece of nigiri you nibble.