This fishmonger’s fantasyland is finding new form on Tokyo’s Toyosu island—but not everybody is happy with the changes.
Tokyo’s iconic and bustling Tsukiji Market—the largest seafood market on the planet—is relocating to a brand-new, purpose-built facility on the small, man-made isle of Toyosu, in Tokyo Bay, this month. Set just over a mile away from the market’s longstanding location in the Tsukiji neighborhood (where it had been located since 1935), opening day at the new Toyosu Market is October 11. For visitors, there will be plenty new to see and do, although the move, which had been put off for years, is not without its controversy.
The Toyosu Market Controversy
The catalyst for the relocation, which was determined ahead of Tokyo’s upcoming hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games, was the age of the Tsukiji Market complex, which at over 80 years old, was deemed not up to par with modern hygienic standards. Managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, officials ascertained that it would be cheaper and faster to develop a new market at Toyosu rather than rebuild on the current site (though, ultimately, the over-budget costs racked up at Toyosu proved this to be incorrect).
However, the new location at Toyosu has been plagued with toxin-contaminated soil, owing to its days as a production site for coal and gas. While the Japanese government has assured the isle’s decontamination and safety for market operations, the conclusions have not been to everyone’s satisfaction.
Apart from the environmental concerns, naysayers cite the new Toyosu Market as inconvenient, given that it’s inaccessible by any subway or train line (new bus service is forthcoming); only the Yurikamome monorail currently offers connections via the Shijo-mae (meaning “in front of the market”) station.
Another major gripe surrounds a change in accessibility to visitors: While it was possible to walk among the seafood vendors at Tsukiji Market, visitors to Toyosu Market will instead be restricted to viewing market operations from second-floor observation decks. With such limited access to the seafood and produce vendors, the up-close details that made Tsukiji Market so fascinating to visitors will be somewhat diminished. All the same, the new market is certainly not without its merits.
Design & Layout at Toyosu Market
Gone are Tsukiji Market’s well-trammeled cobblestoned pathways and wooden cutting boards: The new market is modern, gleaming, and overflowing with shiny equipment.
Toyosu Market is divided into three main sections: Section 5, for fruit and vegetables; Section 6, a “Fisheries Intermediate Wholesale Market,” and Section 7, a “Fisheries Wholesale Market,” where the market’s famed tuna auction will be held. Any marketplace auctions (for tuna or produce) will be on view to the public from behind glass-window-enclosed visitors’ decks. Increased capacity for viewing the frozen tuna auction—which opens for public viewing at Toyosu on January 15, 2019—will exceed the cap of 120 visitors formerly imposed at the Tsukiji Market, but will require a to-be-announced registration process.
While visitors, disappointingly, won’t have access to the marketplace floor, there is a spacious rooftop garden situated atop Section 6, featuring landscaping and nice views onto Tokyo Bay and the city. Visitors can get their bearings and gain some context for their fee-free visit via a designated information booth, while a suggested, signage-driven “visitor’s course” connects the three designated market areas, aiming to help circulate visitors through Toyosu Market with ease.
Where to Eat at Toyosu Market
Tsukiji Market’s Uogashi Yokocho section served as the shokudo, or cafeteria area, catering to the dining needs of thousands of market workers. While some of these eateries—especially the sushi shops—became popular with tourists, they were mostly frequented by market employees looking for a quick spot to refuel with a bowl of noodles, curry and rice, or coffee and toast.
Many of the restaurants at the old marketplace closed for good in early October, but some three dozen establishments for sushi, tonkatsu (pork cutlets), tempura, seafood sashimi rice bowls, ramen, as well as coffee have migrated over to Toyosu’s own Uogashi Yokocho area, which will be split between Sections 6 and 7.
Debuting October 13, look for Uogashi Yokocho highlights like Sushi Dai and Iwasasushi for sushi; Oedo and Nakaya for sashimi donburi (rice bowls); Yoshinoya, the gyudon (beef bowl) restaurant, dating back to 1899 (and from the original market at Nihonbashi); Nakaei for curry; Toritoh for oyakodon (chicken and softly cooked eggs over rice); and Senriken or Iwata for coffee.
What to Buy at Toyosu Market
Also opening October 13, there will be over 60 shops in the Section 6 area selling kitchen knives, Japanese pantry staples, wasabi, pickles, and more wares and fare with a culinary theme. Among the transplants from the original Tsukiji Market are Tsukiji Masamoto and Aritsugu, hocking Japanese knives or Western-style knives made in Japan; and Maruyama Noriten, selling nori, an edible seaweed used at many high-end sushi restaurants. There will be new faces debuting at Toyosu, too, including Sennen Kojiya: operated by the Hakkaisan Sake Brewery, it specializes in sake and fermented products.
What to Do at Tsukiji Market
As for the old Tsukiji Market site, the boisterous Outer Market (jōgai) will continue to operate, even after the Inner Market (jōnai) moves on to Toyosu. Located closer to the city center, visitors will find hundreds of culinary-related shops and eateries in this worthwhile destination that’s loaded with character.
There's also a wholesale seafood market set within the Outer Market area: The two-building Tsukiji Uogashi additionally offers stands selling ready-to-eat sushi and sashimi that can be taken up to the market’s rooftop picnic area.
Plans are still up in the air for the site of the old Tsukiji Market building itself, which is slated for demolition, although it’s likely that the site will be redeveloped to support Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics.
Be sure to consult the Toyosu Market calendar before visiting; note the market is generally closed most Sundays and every other Wednesday.