If you must eat all the sushi, all the time, a trip to Japan inordinately turns into a search for the most perfect fish possible. And there’s no better place to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market, than at humble, little Sushi Dai.
Eating a sushi breakfast at one of the restaurants in the Tsukiji Outer Market is a rite of passage for any serious sushi lover. So, despite the weirdness of eating raw fish before noon (don’t blame me, I grew up in Canada!), we set out at the ungodly hour of *7AM to find the absolute best sushi in all of Tsukiji Fish Market.
*This article is based on my meal at the original location in Tsukiji’s Outer Market. While Sushi Dai and the Tsukiji Fish Market moved to Toyosu Market in 2018, the experience (along with its legendary waits) haven’t. Read on to find out why 7AM is now WAY too late to have sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai.
In this guide
- 1 Why Tsukiji Outer Fish Market?
- 2 Where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market
- 3 Tsukiji Sushi Breakfast at Sushi Dai: What to Expect
- 4 Tips for Getting a Seat at Sushi Dai
- 5 Show up Really, Really, Really Early
- 6 Go alone
- 7 Getting to Sushi Dai
- 8 Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market | Toyusu Fish Market
Why Tsukiji Outer Fish Market?
Tsukiji Fish Market is the source from which all aquatic goodness originates in Japan. It’s the biggest, busiest fish market in the entire world, with over 2,000 tons of marine products passing through its aisles every single day.
In 2018, both Sushi Dai and the Tsukji Fish Market moved over to Toyosu Market. And though the name is different, the freshest fish is still delivered direct to its kitchens.
And that can only mean one thing, right? A whole lotta flawless sushi for you and me to devour, at an incredibly affordable price.
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Where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market
If you ask me, the best sushi in Tsukiji is at humble little Sushi Dai. And I’m not the only one that thinks so.
When we visited way back in 2010, the lines for one of the 12 coveted counter seats at Sushi Dai were already stretching around the corner. Back then, it was mostly Asian tourists in the know, so we were able to show up around 7:30AM, and still get a seat… albeit 3 hours later.
However, in 2014, travellers on Tripadvisor picked Sushi Dai as the number 3 restaurant in ALL of Japan, and the place they most hoped to eat at when visiting Japan. Which I’d dare say, would’ve made it the best sushi, not just in Tsukiji, but IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
It’s fallen slightly from grace since then, and now sits at #3 on Tripadvisor’s current list of Tsukiji sushi restaurants. Only. That doesn’t mean the lines have gotten shorter though. If anything, they’ve gotten worse, and stories abound of super early mornings and 4-5 hour waits.
Now, I’m no arbiter of sushi greatness, but I’d have to agree with all those people. I’ve never had better fish than at Sushi Dai. It’s definitely the best sushi in Tsukiji, and I’d gladly wait another 3 hours to eat it again.
Tsukiji Outer Market Food and Drink Walking Tour | Learn about the history of Tokyo’s most famous food market, while exploring its maze of vendors, and sampling a variety of local foods with a knowledgeable guide. Check full details here.
Tsukiji Sushi Breakfast at Sushi Dai: What to Expect
With just 12 counter places available, waits can be long. When hungry and dreaming of sushi, it can feel like an eternity.
We slowly inched from the tail end of the line – to the middle – to the front – to the holding pen in front of Sushi Dai. After 3 torturous hours, we finally made it inside, our stomachs grumbling progressively louder with every passing minute.
At most Tsukiji sushi restaurants, you can order a la carte off the menu or “Trust the Chef” with an Omakase set course. The thing to do at Sushi Dai, is order the Omakase. Because frankly, if you can’t trust the chef at a place like Sushi Dai, you have no business being there in the first place.
Once you’re seated, the sushi chef will carefully select piece after piece of the freshest fish of the day. There are no plates here. Each piece will be placed directly on the counter in front of you by hand. After you’ve consumed one, the next will follow, and so on.
It’s really the most personal and incredible way to eat a sushi breakfast, and part of what makes a meal at Sushi Dai so special.
But onto the sushi.
Once inside, that 3 hour torturous wait was all but forgotten, as the exquisite flavours of fatty tuna, mackerel and surf clam washed over my tastebuds. The sushi was so mouthwatering, that it scarcely touched the counter in front of us, before it was swept up and devoured.
Best sushi in Tsukiji? Without a doubt.
When the Omakase course is completed, you’re allowed to choose one final piece of sushi off the a la carte menu. Choose wisely and then roll yourself out of the best Tsukiji sushi restaurant there is, and past the people still waiting in line. Reassure them that it’s all worth it, and carry the memory of that meal with you always. I sure do.
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Tips for Getting a Seat at Sushi Dai
Why, you may ask – does it take so damn long to eat a bunch of raw fish on rice? Well, the first reason is obvious. There’s only TWELVE seats available in the whole, tiny place, and a lot of people wanting them.
They’ve crammed as many in there as they possible can, and seating is tight to say the least.
It’s also because the chefs at Sushi Dai place each piece of sushi in front of you one by one. You’ll never get a plateful of fish to devour all at once. You’ll be forced to wait and savour each incredible morsel. And this is precisely what makes this, the best sushi in Tsukiji Market. It’s as much about the experience, as the fish.
When we visited way back in 2010, we wound up at Sushi Dai totally by accident. I’m slightly ashamed to admit we did zero research and simply joined the longest line we could find, after walking blindly around Tsukiji’s Outer Market. We got there around 7:30AM, and waited 3 full hours before we finally scored a seat.
Show up Really, Really, Really Early
These days, if you show up at 7:30AM like we did, there’s a good possibility that you won’t make it into Sushi Dai at all, since it closes around 2PM, and possibly earlier, if they’ve reached the limit of their sushi sets.
My first piece of advice is obvious. Show up as early as possible and get in line for their 5AM opening. The earlier the better. Maybe even the night before (kidding, not kidding).
My second tip is less obvious. If you go alone, or even pretend to go alone, there’s a small chance you might get to skip to the front of the line when a solo seat appears.
For sure, part of the fun is indulging in the best sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market with a friend, documenting it all the way – but if it could save you 2 or 3 hours in line, why not? Like I said, the place is really, really small anyways.
teamLAB Planets Toyosu | After you’ve stuffed yourself silly at Sushi Dai, take a 12 minute walk over to teamLAB Planets Toyosu – where you can immerse yourself in breathtaking interactive art exhibits. Check details here.
Getting to Sushi Dai
Address: 6 Chome-5-1 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0061, Japan | 〒135-0061 東京都江東区豊洲６丁目５−1
Sushi Dai, and other popular restaurants like Daiwa Sushi, moved from the Tsukiji Outer Market to the Toyosu Market in 2018.
The closest subway station is Shinjo-Mae Station, but since Tokyo Metro doesn’t open until 5AM, it’s not the best option if you want to line-up really early. Better to take a taxi, Uber, or, book a hotel within walking distance of Tosoyu Market.
You can wander around the narrow alleyways looking for an incredibly long line of people moving at a snail’s pace (like we did), or you can just keep this map handy. 😉
Good luck. And bring snacks.
Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market | Toyusu Fish Market
When we visited back in 2010, we were able to wander freely through all of Tsukiji Fish Market at any time of the day. Since then, strict regulations have been put in place for tourists, in order to prevent accidents and interference with business.
The entire fish market, including its exciting tuna auction was relocated and renamed Toyosu Fish Market in 2018 – though I’m guessing people still refer to it as Tsukiji.
The exciting tuna auction that’s on most traveller’s must-do lists (not ours, too early!), is now strictly regulated. You MUST apply in advance for one of the 10 minute time slots between 5:45 – 6:15AM… and even then, your spot is not guaranteed. It’s decided by lottery!
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Sushi Dai: Essential Info and FAQs
Will you brave the long wait at Sushi Dai for the best sushi in Toyosu Market?
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It was so interesting to read about Sushi Dai, and how amazing people would queue for so many hours just to have a few bites of sushi. You and Agri did look like you enjoyed the little joint a lot, and it must have been some really good sushi. If you don’t mind waiting another 3 hours as you said, must be really good stuff XD All about the experience, not what you pay for . It woulod be very lucky if you showed up solo and got a seat right away – but I would have thought the next person in line would be allowed in lol. Also I am sure this is a place that doesn’t serve avocado with their sushi!
Hey Mabel – sorry for slow reply, I’m in the midst of finally updating the design of my site and it’s taking all my energy haha. The great thing about sushi dai is that to have the same quality sushi anywhere else, you would have to pay A LOT more. I’m glad we did it at least once, but probably next time, I might try somewhere else with less of a line. I’m sure the sushi must be very good everywhere in the market! And haha, yeah NO avocado in sight. 😉
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I loved eating sushi near the Tsukiji market to, it’s just perfect! Miss Japan so much 🙂
So amazing right? And affordable for the quality. I’d love to go back again some day… ?
Do you think the fact that the fish market is moving this month will impact the traffic to the outer market and their sushi restaurants?
I can’t say for sure, but what I’ve read is that it’s only the Inner Market activities that are moving and being affected. It’s all business as usual in the Outer Market… are you planning to try out Sushi Dai?
that is truly amazing. i enjoy a number of Japanese foods, but not sushi. So I wouldnt be in line for 5 hours anyways. But wow. for those who love sushi, it MUST be the ultimate!
Sushi is definitely an acquired taste. It took me quite a long time to get past California Rolls haha – food is just such a sanitized experience in North America. Traveling and living in Asia has definitely made me more open to rawer food experiences!
I like sushi, and I’d love to try super duper fresh sushi like this some day, but 3+ hours …?? Not sure I could handle it. You guys look pretty darn happy, though!
I thought you were a vegetarian? Exceptions made for really good meals? 😉 Yeah that 3+ hours was pretty intense, especially since we had no idea what we’d signed up for when we got in that line, but I’m glad we did it then. We’d have to wait much longer now I think!! 🙂
I have given up vegetarianism on a very limited basis in the last 6 months, mostly because of a lack of protein and not so much about really good meals! I still prefer veg most of the time!
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That Rodizi style in Sao Palo…my mouth is watering.
Sushi + all-you-can-eat is definitely a good idea! 😀 You must be a salmon lover? 😉 I sure am.
I was wondering what time did you line up for sushi dai?! I’m hoping to beat the line when I’m there next month.. Is that even possible?!
Hey Tisha. Honestly, we got there pretty late, I think around 7:30? I think potentially if you got there really, really early, you might get a shorter line. The problem is that people try to see the tuna auction at 4:30/5:00, and if they don’t get in, they head straight to Sushi-Dai to line up for the 5AM opening. Sooo, I hate to say it, lol, but I think the only way to possibly maybe beat the line is to show up at 4:30? Good luck and let us know how it goes!! 🙂
Thank you so much for your reply! I was thinking 430 too.. Yes, we shall see 😀
I would never wait in line for 3 hours for food… but looking at those gorgeous sushi, I might be persuaded to change my mind. 🙂
Lol… honestly, if we’d known exactly how long we had to wait, I’m not sure we would’ve done it. I do think it was worth it though, for the experience, and of course the sushi. Not sure if I would do it again though. Maybe… 🙂
Personally, I haven’t waited that long for food – when I’m hungry, I’m simply not patient enough to wait a long time until I get some food. It’s just like “I’m sure I’ll get somewhere else something faster without waiting that long” haha.
Anyway, cool to read about your experiences in Tokyo 🙂
We’re usually not that patient either (especially hubby as you can tell by the photos), but we’re quite addicted to sushi, and the thought of having it at the freshest place in the world seemed too good too pass up! Next time, we’ll bring snacks for the line. 😉
Wow, that is definitely commitment to sushi! Glad it was worth the wait. I think it’s funny that a place like a market, where perfectly normal day-to-day activity is carried out, has become a tourist attraction in its own right!
So much so, that all the tourists were interfering in business and causing accidents! :0 Apparently the whole market is moving to a new location in 2016, and it’ll be better able to accommodate it’s multiple “uses.” there. 😉
There are many similar restaurants at Tsukiji, they all get fish from the same place so they’re not that different. Though since they’re the same, I would prefer eating at a place only locals know, since it means the restaurant has been there a while with a good reputation. Also there’s no crazy lineup! I think it’s best to avoid lines with a bunch of foreigners, in general. I was hoping to find more interesting recommendations other than Sushi Dai everyone talks about. How were the other sushi places in Tsukiji? 🙂
Hey Lia, it’s true that there won’t be crazy line-ups at lesser known places, and that all the fish comes from the same market. However, the way it’s prepared, and the fish the sushi restaurant actually chooses to buy is completely different. The reason why everyone talks about Sushi Dai is because it’s just that good. Also, you should know that the first time I went there, was long before any “western tourists” knew about it, and before it landed on Tripadvisor – and the line was STILL there. 3 hour wait vs 5 hour wait – but it was still there.
Anyway, I was also just visiting Tokyo – not a resident there – so have not been able to go to other places in the market sadly. Are you going there on a trip soon? I’d love to hear about any good, local places there that you discover! 🙂
Hmmm, three hours, not for me, I’d be so cranky by the time we ate that I’d never enjoy it.
Truthfully, we had no idea how long it would take when we got in line! Believe me, we were mighty cranky (and HUNGRY) by the time we got in, but we were still able to enjoy it. I think if I went again, I’d bring snacks for the line. 😉
it’s worth every second of the wait. Best sushi ever
So fresh! Literally tastes like it’s straight from the ocean and onto the counter. Not 100% sure if I’d do it again, but I’m glad we did it once. 🙂