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where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai

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 than in Tsukiji Fish Market – the source from which all that aquatic goodness originates in the country.

After all, it’s the biggest, busiest fish market in the world, with over 2,000 tons of marine products passing through its aisles every single day. That can only mean one thing, right? A whole lotta flawless sushi to devour.

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best sushi in Tsukiji, Sushi Dai

The most affordable, best sushi in Tokyo is at Tsukiji Market

Eating a Tsukiji fish market sushi breakfast at one of the restaurants in the 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.

*Read on to find out why 7AM is WAY too late to have the best sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market.

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.

best sushi in Tsukiji, Sushi Dai

The line for the best sushi at Tsukiji Market – spot the westerner at the back of the line

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 only tops 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.

best sushi in Tsukiji, sushi dai

So close, and yet so far. I’d wait another 3 hours, but me might not.

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.

best sushi in Tsukiji, sushi dai

The view is so different from inside. At Sushi-Dai in Tokyo in 2010.

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.

where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai

Incredible sushi at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji Market

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.

best sushi in Tsukiji, sushi dai

This is the face you make after eating the best sushi in Tsukiji Market

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 possibly can, and seating is tight, to say the least.

where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai

Crammed seating at Sushi Dai

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 it is about 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.

best sushi in Tsukiji, Sushi Dai

Watch the sunset and then get in line at Sushi Dai

Show up really, 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 noon. 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)

Go alone.

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 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.

where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai

PRO TIP

The Tokyo Metro is not cheap, and more than a little confusing. Save a ton of money by reserving a Tokyo Subway Pass. It gets you unlimited rides on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines + you won’t have to pay for any navigational errors you make.

How to Get to the Best Sushi in Tsukiji

Sushi Dai is located in the Tsujiki Outer Market. The closest subway stations are Tsukiji Station and Tsukiji-Shijo Station. 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. πŸ˜‰

Good luck. And bring snacks.

Visiting Tsukiji 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.

Visitors are no longer allowed to enter the wholesale market area before 11:00AM, and some areas of the Market are completely off limits to tourists.

where to find the best sushi in Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai

Tuna on the block at Tsukiji Market

The exciting tuna auction that’s on most traveller’s must-do lists (not ours, too early!), is now limited to 120 viewers per day, on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 5:00AM.

Detailed information about visiting both the tuna auction, the Tsukiji Fish Market, and its impending move can be found on the Japan Guide.

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Japan is the best place for sushi, and the best place in Tsukiji Market to have it is Sushi Dai. Find out what you can do to get a seat as quickly as possible.

Comments:

  • October 24, 2018

    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!

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  • September 21, 2018

    I loved eating sushi near the Tsukiji market to, it’s just perfect! Miss Japan so much πŸ™‚

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  • newfoundmel

    September 5, 2018

    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?

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  • August 29, 2018

    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!

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  • August 27, 2018

    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!

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      • August 29, 2018

        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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  • October 25, 2014

    That Rodizi style in Sao Palo…my mouth is watering.

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    • October 26, 2014

      Sushi + all-you-can-eat is definitely a good idea! πŸ˜€ You must be a salmon lover? πŸ˜‰ I sure am.

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  • October 16, 2014

    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?!

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    • October 16, 2014

      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!! πŸ™‚

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      • October 16, 2014

        Thank you so much for your reply! I was thinking 430 too.. Yes, we shall see πŸ˜€

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  • October 16, 2014

    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. πŸ™‚

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    • October 16, 2014

      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… πŸ™‚

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  • October 15, 2014

    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 πŸ™‚

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    • October 16, 2014

      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. πŸ˜‰

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  • October 15, 2014

    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!

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    • October 16, 2014

      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. πŸ˜‰

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    • Lia

      June 3, 2019

      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? πŸ™‚

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  • October 15, 2014

    Hmmm, three hours, not for me, I’d be so cranky by the time we ate that I’d never enjoy it.

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    • October 16, 2014

      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. πŸ˜‰

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  • October 15, 2014

    it’s worth every second of the wait. Best sushi ever

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    • October 16, 2014

      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. πŸ™‚

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