Bringing a baby to Tsukiji fish market

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is a must-see attraction. It’s the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market. I knew we couldn’t miss this, but my google searches kept returning results claiming you cannot bring babies or young kids.

UPDATE (Nov. 2018): Tsukiji Fish Market has officially closed and moved, and reopened as Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo’s Koto Ward. We visited back in 2016 so this post reflects information and our experience at that time. It may or may not be applicable to the new market.

Steve’s more daring and I’m more cautious. We save each other…it works! One morning in Tokyo, we decided to go for it but I was still nervous. You find the outer market first – lots of shops, food stands, and restaurants. I already felt better and reassured, but also knew we weren’t actually in the fish market yet. We ambled around and asked a couple of times, trying to figure it out among the bustle of people. There was a massive warehouse-like building with so many trucks and people zooming in and out, but it felt off-limits to the street wanderer. I felt like we weren’t allowed to go in. Steve, being himself, nudged me along and we froggered across to the building.

At the entrance we simply walked in. No one stopped us or paid any attention to us, they continued about their business. If you ask in advance, most people will probably discourage you or tell you babies and toddlers are not allowed. We found this false, but if you do bring a baby or small children you MUST do so in a smart, cautious and respectful manner.

If you decide to bring a baby and/or toddler to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, follow these tips:

  1. DON’T bring a stroller or anything else big/bulky (a small daypack backpack/diaper bag is okay).
  2. DO carry your baby or toddler in a baby carrier (make sure they’re comfy and will stay calm in the carrier, it will not be appropriate to let them out).
  3. DON’T attempt to attend the tuna auction or arrive too early in the morning.
  4. DO arrive later in the morning (after 9am) when things are slowing down, there’s still plenty to see.
  5. DON’T get in the way! Keep an eye on baby’s hands and feet too, make sure they don’t reach out to grab anything. Some vehicles move fast and there are narrow aisles – watch out.
  6. DO wear closed-toe and slip-resistant shoes; it’s wet, slippery and messy inside.
  7. DON’T forget where you are. The Tsukiji fish market is a bustling business. It’s loud, there are tons of workers, machinery, knives, forklifts and all sorts of other chaos. It’s okay to take photos, but don’t forget where you are, be extra respectful and careful especially when bringing a baby along.
  8. DO know your baby’s sentiment and mood, only bring him/her if they’re feeling well and content (the fish market is no place to feed baby, change baby or deal with a toddler tantrum).

Outer Market Sushi Lunch with a baby

After exploring the inner market, we walked around the outer market stalls. We waited in line for an hour for a sushi lunch. Most of the restaurants had long lines because they only accommodate a handful of people each. Once inside there was the sushi bar, the chef behind the glass working, and customers on the other side of the glass on stools. There’s only enough room for a single person to squeeze behind each stool.

Elden started to get fussy as he was getting tired. There was no room to move around with him, so I  went outside. I probably could’ve bent and squeezed to feed him, but I felt more comfortable stepping out. Maintaining a harmonious environment and being considerate of everyone around you is a very important part of Japanese culture. And, I didn’t want to be disrespectful or cause a disturbance for the chef and other patrons in such a small space.

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market was not made for babies or even tourists. It’s popular with tourists, and the outer market now caters to tourists, but it wasn’t created for babies. I wouldn’t call it baby-friendly, but you can take your baby if you want to. Simply make sure you’re being a respectful traveler.

For slightly older kids and more details to prepare for bringing kids to the market, check out An Epic Education’s insightful post.

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