Pulling an All-Nighter for the Tsukiji Fish Market

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Pulling an All-Nighter for the Tsukiji Fish Market

So for those who don’t know, the Tuna Auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market is Lonely Planet’s top rated thing to do in Tokyo.  So here’s the thing, when you are rated as a top attraction by Lonely Planet, its like being touched by Midas himself.  Hoards of crowds will flock to these sites all year-round, Tsukiji being no exception.  Now add to all of that, the Tuna Auction only allows 120 people each day total.  You can imagine how early the crowds start forming for the 5am door opening.

So, with the earliest subway not able to get us to the doors until 5:30 am and a taxi from our hostel costing more than 70 bucks, we came up with the brilliant idea to pull an all-nighter in Odaiba and start walking over around 2 in order to get there for 3:45 am.  Sounds logical right?

Bridge in Odaiba

After spending the day in Harajuku and Shibuya, we made our way over to the super modern, manmade transport island of Odaiba.  We wandered around the island, beautiful, clean, remarkably modern, a Japanese archetype if there ever was one.  We found Odaiba’s Gundam statue during our walk; at 18 metres tall it lights up, smokes and even moves in time to a movie projected behind him.  If you aren’t up-to-date on your Japanese anime, think life size Transformer sans Megan Fox….unfortunately.

Gundam Odaiba

So, this now takes us up to about 9pm – time to hit the arcade? We found a giant 24hr arcade in the Palette Town mega mall complex filled with every kind of game you can think of from Dance Dance Revolution to batting cages to a tiny tank where you do your own fishing….yes that’s right a tank open to the public where you rent a tiny fishing rod to catch your date a delicious bass or more than likely, a rotting goldfish.

Arcade Odaiba

We spent the next couple of hours wandering the arcade finding weird and awesome things to play. Batting cages, tennis courts, thousands of dancing machines and then this…

Japanese massager

After tweaking my back in the batting cages from hitting too many homeruns/missing the ball a whole bunch of times, we grabbed some dinner and realized we still needed something to do between 11pm and 2am.  The world’s only onsen amusement park open all night where you can lounge in a ton of different hot springs all night long was an option but after looking into it and seeing how much they charge as a supplement for staying past midnight, we decided the only thing left to do was go bowling….and drink.

Bowling alley Odaiba

In Palette Town, under the giant ferris wheel there is a games room with bowling alleys, pool tables and dart boards open all night long.  Until 2 am we drank potent Japanese energy drinks and bowled.  How’d you bowl, you ask? Let’s just say I’d give Walter Ray Williams a run for his money. FACT: I would not give Walter Ray Williams a run for his money.  FACT: I didn’t know any bowlers so I had to google a bowlers name for this post.

Palette Town Odaiba

2 am struck and we headed for the Tsukiji Fish Market.  Turns out trying to navigate yourself from concrete island maze to the mainland when you are dead tired and can barely see straight isn’t the easiest thing…who would’ve thought?!?  Let’s now fast forward the next 45 minutes of wandering the eerily quiet core of Odaiba, swearing profusely, telling Alyse I know where I was going when I really had no idea and then giving up and finding a taxi.

3:45 am we pulled up to the information office, where about 10 people were already lined up and took our place in line. Despite costing a solid chunk of change and a distinct language barrier, our taxi driver was an absolute gem, driving into the fish market (which you’re not allowed to do), asking countless fish mongers how to get us to the right place and shutting the meter off while he figured it out.  To top it off  he then handed back 300 yen of the fare! Guys like this remind us that there are way more good people in the world than bad.

We made it and that’s all that matters.  We were put into the first group of thirty although if we were about twenty minutes later we wouldn’t have made the second group as it filled up fast.  They stuck us in a small room for about two hours which was pretty as we were dead tired and there wasn’t enough room to lay down and sleep.  Finally at 6 am they lead us into a huge warehouse where hundreds of massive frozen tunas laid while men walked around looking them over very carefully apparently checking the freshness and fattiness of the fish.

Tsukiji Fish Market

We leave you with a short video from the Tuna Auction….it’ll save you from having to pull an all-nighter to see it 😉


Ross & Alyse



Lover of travel, photography, nature, movies, and nachos. If you love Star Wars and Lord of the Rings we'll probably become best friends.

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