The relocation of Tsukiji Market is a long-standing story. Judged unsanitary by the Tokyo Government, it should have moved to Toyosu as early as 2001. The project has been repeatedly postponed, notably due to the possible contamination of the new site’s undergrounds, built on the remains of a former gas plant. Tokyo Metropolitan Government ended up giving its agreement, however suspicions are still surrounding the case. It must be said that most of the retailers remained opposed to this change. Some even resisted on Toyosu's inauguration day, by selling their products in front of Tsukiji’s closed gates.
Marketplace for professionals, this latter has become overtime a must-see tourist spot of the capital. The tuna auction, very early in the morning, made its reputation. It was pleasant to wander around in the crowded yet popular atmosphere, nearby locals and restaurants’ owners coming for their daily purchases. However, despite rules of behavior and supervised schedules, this flow of people has not been without problems and sellers complained, totally justified, because of some tourists' disrespectful behaviors.
For those who knew and appreciated Tsukiji, the comparison is unavoidable and unfortunately does not play in favor of Toyosu's brand new market. Indeed, even the qualification of "market" is now quite tricky as visitors are parked in a delimited zone off the grounds, far from the alive atmosphere we knew.
Three modern blocks of massive architecture without any specific interest stand in front of visitors arriving by Yurikamone Line (same as towards Odaiba):
- tuna and other seafood auction halls;
- fish intermediate wholesale market, along with a goods shops area and a rooftop garden;
- fresh fruits and vegetables market.
Buildings are connected with each other by long pedestrian bridges where visitors can walk to go from one to another. Inside each of these pavilions, gray concrete corridors lead on several observation windows, doubly-glazed and soundproofed.
Fisheries Wholesale Market Building
Auction sales start at 4:30am and last from one to two hours, depending on the quality and quantity of the products arrived at the port during the night. Visitors are allowed to attend by showing up directly at the entrance then viewing through two plateforms on the upper floor, separated from the selling place itself. From January 15th, 2019, a second observatory deck, closer to the action of tuna auctions will be opened to a limited public (on the same floor and separated by a simple piece of glass). The main problem, at this early hour, will be the transportation course. Indeed, Toyosu, outside the city center, is accessible only by subway or car. However, since trains do not run until 5am and the traffic is therefore bottled, we just have to hope for a long lasting sale in order to enjoy it.
The rest of the day, it is possible to watch down onto the warehouses but they are almost empty. Explanations in English are available about market running, trying to retain people’s attention, without any real success.
Fisheries Intermediate Wholesale Market Building
The second building devoted to wholesale businesses is off-limit to general public. You can just guess about two or three aisles with fishmongers behind raised windows providing limited views. Charming small streets’ stands seem to have been replaced by long rows of rectilinear retailers. Still on the upper floors, visitors are then invited to do their souvenirs’ shopping in a specific area called Uogashi Yokocho. There are shops regarding cooking: kitchen utensils, accessories and processed food in portions. So far, this shopping alley remains too new and too clean, and the gray color all around accentuates the place's cold atmosphere.
Undoubtedly, the main interesting point is the rooftop garden, which happens to be well laid out. Walkers can contemplate broad areas of lawn, dominated by an urban landscape and Tokyo Bay. Even better, a footbridge provides access to Toyosu-Gururi Park, along the Harumi Canal, and offers a nice point of view on the famous Rainbow Bridge. It does not belong to the market and can therefore be visited day or night.
Fruit and Vegetable Building
The block dedicated to fruits and vegetables is finally the best of all three, which happens to be unfortunate for a market firstly popular for its fish. Visitors can clearly see the purchase areas and the long corridors are color-coded by seasonal products. However you can not buy fruits or vegetables directly from retailers anymore.
Market-related restaurants areas
Three food court, located at the entrance of each building, offer lunch options to satisfy the desires for sashimi or sushi. Pretty high prices logically guarantee the products' exceptional freshness. This, along with waiting lines, does not refrain gourmets who seem to perfectly find their way among concrete corridors.
For foreign tourists, English explanations, well done and didactic, are perhaps the main positive aspect of this new site. For example, you can learn more about the different fish species consumed by Japanese people and the typical dishes paired.
Totally new, Toyosu Market is still looking for its identity and it will need some time before feeling a specific atmosphere. Tsukiji melancholic visitors will probably be disappointed not to feel nor hear the excitement of trade negotiations. It is hoped that these negative aspects from a tourist point of view, now serve the tranquility of professionals on their work place. Tokyo City still lost one of its main iconic attractions. Additional infrastructure dedicated to leisure (mall, hotel with onsen) are planned in the coming years in order to energize the surroundings.
Note that Tsukiji Outer Market, still opened, keeps on welcoming customers, yet how long will this last?
How to get to Toyosu
By monorail -- Yurikamome Line, Shijo-Mae station, then direct access via walkways
Location unreachable with the JR Pass
Get there with a rental car
Opened from Mondays to Saturdays from 5am to 5pm
Regular closing days: Wednesdays (see schedule here)
Annual closing days: from December 31 to January 4
How long / when to visit
About two hours of visit without viewing fish auctions
豊洲市場 (Toyosu ichiba)