The Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Market: A How Not to Guide
By Rebecca Quin
On September 10, 2014
A while ago, as I was scrolling through the arch nemesis of all things productive, namely Pinterest, I read a quote that said ‘disappointment is the nurse of wisdom’. It was on a black background in a white, jangly sort of handwritten font that last Monday suddenly began flashing before my eyes again and again.
However, the words had been re-written and instead said ‘disappointment is getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the tuna auction at Tsukiji Market only to find that registration had already finished and you were now stuck with more hours in a day than you had ever expected from the earth’s rotational capabilities’.
So, with these two inspirational quotes in mind I have put together a brief ‘how not to guide’ to the tuna auction. For actual, helpful information fellow GP blogger Grace Buchele Mineta has made it to the auction and written a really useful post about it on her website which I definitely regret not reading earlier.
So without further adieu, here is my guide for now to not see the Tsukiji Tuna Auction.
1. Don’t turn up at 4.30 am feeling smug at your prematurity
To visit the tuna auction you need to register beforehand in the morning at the covert Fish Information Center to be admitted in one of two groups of 60 people, with the first group visiting the auction area from 5.25am and the second from 5.50am. Since registration opens at 5am, and we were visiting on a Monday, I thought that strolling up roughly one hour before the first auction would give me plenty of time to don my green visitor’s vest, take a few test shots on my iPad and generally soak up the fishy atmosphere.Photo by Bryan Allison
Unfortunately, we arrived at the FIC only to find a sign displaying the remorseless words ‘Registration is finished for today’. The poor guy sitting behind this plainly unambiguous statement was reluctant to slide open the window to deal me the blow verbally. His advice was turn up at 3.30am on busy days since tickets would be sold out by 4am. ‘When are the busy days?’ I cried. ‘Everyday’, he whispered, shaking his head and slowly sliding the window closed.
2. Don’t try and stay in this capsule hotel if you’re not a man
Since trains stop running around 12am and you need to be at the market in the early morning, your options for killing time are limited to; drinking endless cups of coffee in an all-night restaurant, loitering like a member of a dangerous youth gang on the street or finding a place to stay for half a night.
There are several hotels within walking distance to the market (expensive but useful for heading back to after the auction until check-out), a cheap and convenient manga café, or I found a handy capsule hotel in nearby Shimbashi. As it turns out, the capsule hotel was for men only which presented quite a big problem for the three females in our group.
3. Don’t give up but instead use the earliness to your advantage
If you miss the registration, not only are you faced with the disappointment of not seeing the auction, you also have to confront the 19 hour day that now lies ahead and you might be tempted to give up and go home. Instead, use the fact the no one else is up yet to your advantage.Photo by Les Taylor
We headed to Sensō-ji temple in Asukusa which is normally crammed with tourists but at 6.30 am is an oasis of Zen tranquility. I’ve been there several times before but I’d never really been able to appreciate how beautiful it is because someone’s head was always in the way. After, we walked to the Tokyo Skytree where there were no queues and we could have actually bought tickets to go up it if it wasn’t for the clouds blocking the view of everything.
Have you been to the tuna auction at Tsukiji? Do you have any advice for our readers on where to stay or the best time to get there? Comment below!