Chuo (中央) is a central ward in Tokyo. It has been the historical commercial heart of Tokyo since the Edo period, and to this day, is filled with offices, banks, and other institutions that drive the Japanese economy.
While the name literally means "Center", this ward loses out in prestige (if only very slightly) to neighboring Chiyoda, home to the Emperor among others. Ginza, which is located in Chuo ward and is covered in a separate article, is generally reckoned to have the most expensive real estate on earth and there are plenty of bright lights.
Chuo ward was the former home to the world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji, which processed an unparalleled volume and variety of seafood, in addition to vegetables and other products. While the Inner Market has permanently closed and operations moved to Toyosu, the hundreds of stalls in the Outer Market remain open to the public.
The western edge of Chuo starts on the Yaesu (east) side of Tokyo Station, and if your legs are feeling up to it, you can get pretty much anywhere worth seeing within a 45-minute walk. Otherwise, take the subway.
Closure of Inner Market
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has closed the Inner Market of Tsukiji and relocated wholesale operations to a larger space in Toyosu. While the inner market space is redeveloped into temporary parking for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the outer market will remain open to everyone.
- 1 Tsukiji Outer Market (築地場外市場 Tsukiji jōgai shijō), 5-2-1 Tsukiji (Tsukijishijo Station, Toei Oedo Subway), ☏ . Varies by shop, but typically M-Sa 09:00-14:00, closed holidays and most Wednesdays. For more than 80 years, Tsukiji was the world's largest wholesale fish market. Although the wholesale operations (including the famous tuna auctions) closed in 2018 and moved to Toyosu, the outer market remains in place and continues to welcome the public with stalls selling fresh fish, sushi, produce and kitchen supplies. Plans for the site are in limbo and are likely to be on hold until after the 2020 Olympics; it might be turned into a food theme park, or a new market might be constructed, about a quarter the size of the old one, to sell to central Tokyo restaurants. Free.
- 2 Tsukiji Hongwanji (築地本願寺), 3-15-1 Tsukiji (accessible from Tsukiji (Hibiya Line) or Tsukiji-shijō (Ōedo Line)), ☏ . A Jōdo Shinshū temple just a few blocks away from the fish market, worth seeing because of its unique, South Asian-inspired architecture. Buddhist services are held in English on Saturday evenings.
- 3 Nihon Bridge (日本橋). The bridge which Nihonbashi is named for, translated as Japan bridge. It is most famous bridge in Japan and one of very few historic bridges remaining in Tokyo. The current stone and steel bridge was built in 1911. It is the point from which all distances are measured to the capital. Since 1964 it is unfortunately overshadowed by an massive expressway, blocking much of the view.
- 4 Tokyo Stock Exchange, 2-1 Nihombashi Kabutocho (accessible from Kayabacho (Tozai and Hibiya Lines) or Nihombashi (Asakusa Line)), ☏ . Tokyo's stock exchange, while one of the largest in the world by capitalization, is now entirely automated, and the tiny building it resides in is mostly for show, featuring a small museum, exhibition hall, and broadcasting facilities.
- 5 Hama-rikyū Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園), 1-1 Hama-rikyū Teien (7 min walk from Shinodome, Tsukiji-shijo or Yurikamome subway stations, 10 min. walk from JR Shimbashi station), ☏ . It was built by 17th-century shoguns for their private enjoyment. Hama-rikyu is now a public walking garden with an all-season range of flowers and flowering trees. The highlight is the tea house, picturesquely set on a small island in the middle of a pond, where green tea and sweets are available for ¥500. The garden is next to Tsukiji fish market. A boat which runs up the Sumida River to Asakusa departs from inside the park. Park admission ¥300 (age 65+ ¥150, primary school children free).
- 6 Mitsui Memorial Museum (三井記念美術館, Mitsui Kinen Bijutsukan). Art museum, the collection includes items used in the Japanese tea ceremony as well as Eastern antiques. Housed in an historic building dating back to 1926.
- Tsukiji Outer Market + Fishmarket Alley in Inner Market. The Outer Market of the Tsukiji Fish Market and the retail area of the Inner Market (Uogashi yokochō, “Fishmarket Alley” – the same set of alleys housing Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi) contain a bewildering array of shops. One shop carries nothing but dried seaweed, another knives, another is just bowls of all shapes and sizes! After you've had your sushi breakfast, wander around these shops and pick up something interesting.
- Walk around the Tsukiji area to find the remaining 1920s houses that are among the rare ones to have survived World War II. The World Monuments Fund warns against their ongoing destruction.
The Ginza, covered in its own article, is one of the world's most famous (and most expensive) shopping districts.
Past Tsukiji on Harumi-dori is the island neighborhood of Tsukishima (月島, "Moon Island"), known mainly for its many restaurants serving monja-yaki (もんじゃ妬き). This dish is popular in Eastern Japan (Kantō) and is available throughout Tokyo, but is a particular specialty of Tsukishima. Monja-yaki is like the okonomiyaki of Western Japan (Kansai), but the dough is much more runny and the ingredients are finely chopped, leading to what looks like a puddle of vomit. Just remember the essentials: you form the shredded cabbage into a ring on the griddle and pour the leftover liquid in the middle, and you use the tiny spatulas to press the mixed batter onto the griddle until it sizzles, then eat it right off the spatula. (Most shop staff will be more than happy to assist.) Sounds strange, doesn't it? It is. To get here, take the Yurakucho/O-Edo Line to Tsukishima station, and you'll find "Monja Town"  aka Nishinaka-dori (西仲道り) extending out from near exit 7, with no less than 70 restaurants crammed into a couple of city blocks.
- 1 Oshio Honten (おしお本店), Tsukishima 3-17-10, ☏ . The original shop of one of the better-known chains here, with half a dozen restaurants. Try the mentaiko-shiso monja with cod roe and perilla, which tastes oh so much better than it looks. Monjas from ¥1000 up (serves two).
The northern section of Tsukishima is named Tsukudajima (佃島), and is the origin of tsukudani (佃煮), a way of preserving food by simmering it in a sticky soy and sugar sauce. Tsukudani is still available throughout Japan, but is less common than before, having fallen out of style in most of Japan; it is still commonly available here. Seafood, seaweed (konbu) and various vegetables are the most common ingredients, but if you're looking for something more interesting, try inago (いなご) tsukudani, made from locusts!
- 2 [formerly dead link] Yoshinoya Tsukiji Store No. 1 (吉野家築地一号店 Yoshinoya Tsukiji Ichigō-ten), Tsukiji 5-2-1 (Central Wholesale Market, Food C). Beef bowl fans come here in droves to make a pilgrimage to Yoshinoya's original store, which dates back to 1926. (Yoshinoya actually opened in Nihombashi around 1899, but along with the entire fish market, they moved to Tsukiji after the Great Kanto Earthquake.) The interior is done up in old Edo style, looking more like an upmarket sushi shop than fast food, and the menu is limited to one main dish only: beef bowl (牛丼 gyūdon) for ¥380 yen, plus optional sides like egg, miso, pickles etc. Opening hours are the same as the Tsukiji Market, and you'll probably need to ask for directions to find it in the vast bowels of the market.
Try a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji, primarily for the experience. The fish is guaranteed to be as fresh as possible and the prices, while not cheap, are reasonable given the high quality–figure on ¥2000-¥4000 for an omakase set of whatever is good today, more if you order drinks or extra pieces. Prices are comparable to a mid-range sushi lunch, while quality is somewhat higher, and are significantly cheaper than a sushi dinner in Ginza, which can easily cost over ¥10,000.
Also consider the omelette rolls (dashimaki tamago) available throughout the market. This is another Tsukiji speciality, and egg sushi (tamago nigiri-zushi) is traditionally served alongside seafood sushi.
The most famous are two small sushi restaurants in the inner market, Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, both located around Building 6 in Uogashi yokochō (“Fishmarket alley”), which runs east-west along the backs of a number of market buildings. There are three entrances to the inner market: the main gate (at north), the Ichibabashi (“Market bridge”) gate (at northeast, next to a gas station), both on the main street, and Kaikōbashi (“Fruit of the sea bridge”) gate (at east): Simple Japanese map [dead link], Official Japanese map. Easiest is the main gate, which has various tourist information and signs, and a pedestrian path (going straight, then bearing left) directly to the alley.
Both restaurants have become very popular with tourists – though locals do still go – so be prepared to queue, particularly on weekends, even if you arrive at 6AM; also be aware that smaller groups may be served before larger ones. An hour's wait is typical, though the line for Sushi Dai often exceeds three hours (and is largely exposed to elements and the morning sun), while the line for Daiwa Sushi generally moves faster, and it is sometimes possible to be seated with little or no wait. Due to the wait, it is preferable to go in warmer weather, meaning not mid-winter. Sushi Dai is generally considered the better of the two, and is a bit more expensive, but the most significant difference is the wait. Fans of clubbing avoid the queues by staying out all night, especially in Roppongi, and going to Tsukiji in the early morning after the clubs close.
- 3 [dead link] Sushi Dai (寿司大), Tsukiji 5-2-1, ☏ . 05:00-15:00. ¥3900 for day's set (10 pieces & 1 roll), of which you get to choose the last piece. They also have a cheaper ¥2500 version. The young gizzard shad (kohada) is particularly beautifully presented, in a braid. The line is in two sections: short one directly in front of the restaurant, and a larger one separated by a gap and running around the corner.
- 4 [dead link] Sushi Daiwa (寿司大和), Tsukiji 5-2-1, ☏ . 05:30-13:30. The larger of the two, so the queue moves faster. The standard omakase course is ¥3500 (7 pieces & 1 roll), and a cheaper ¥2100 version also available. Famous for their meltingly soft anago (conger eel).
There are far more sushi places in the outer market, without the long waits and with the same sushi, though without the inner market atmosphere. These generally open at ₩8:00 or 09:00. Some of these are businesses of long-standing, dating to the 19th century and now consisting of large chains, though the main shops are still in Tsukiji.
- 5 Sushisay Main Store (寿司清本店), 4-13-9 Tsukiji (map), ☏ . M-F 08:30-14:30 & 17:00-20:00, Sa 08:30–20:00, Su 09:30–20:00, closed Wednesday. Over 120 years old, this is now a large chain, but the head shop is in Tsukiji and it is well-reputed.
- 6 Sushizanmai (すしざんまい), 4-11-9 Tsukiji (near Shin-Ohashi-dori/Harumi-dori crossing), ☏ . 24 hr. The self-proclaimed "King Of Tuna", this is now a large chain but they originate from here in Tsukiji, where they have at least 7 locations and this three-story Honten. Prices are per roll and range from ¥100-500, or order a set meal for ¥3000. They have an excellent English menu.
There are also non-sushi options, most notably omelette rolls (dashimaki tamago) available throughout the market. In the inner market there are numerous restaurants, mostly standard Japanese fare serving market traders, in Buildings 1, 6, and 8, and a handful of others – see list [dead link] (in Japanese, but with building numbers, hours, and pictures). Ryū sushi in Building 1 is noted for featuring a variety of seasonal seafood.
- 7 Tamahide (玉ひで), 1-17-10 Nihonbashiningyocho (A few blocks south of Ningyocho station), ☏ . In business since 1760, perhaps the oldest in Tokyo. This restaurant specialises in Oyakodon, literally "parent-child bowl", made from spiced chicken with scrambled eggs (hence the name) and sweet sauce on rice. A popular comfort food with surprising complexity. Expect long queues.
There are a wide variety of expensive and extremely expensive restaurants in Ginza; see Tokyo/Ginza#Eat.
The Ginza has a large array of drinking establishments, most of which are also extremely expensive. This is where the Japanese horror stories of US$100 for a beer originate from. Choose carefully, or head elsewhere.
- 1 Sumisho Hotel (住庄ほてる), 9-14 Nihonbashi Kobunacho, ☏ , fax: . A ryokan-style hotel in walking distance from Tokyo Station, Japanese style rooms and big traditional bath available. Singles start at ¥7,000, doubles at ¥11,000.
- 2 Hotel Kazusaya (かずさや), 4-7-15 Nihombashi-Honcho (near Shin-Nihombashi Station, Sobu Line), ☏ , email@example.com. Singles ¥8,000-9,000, doubles ¥14,700.
- 3 Tokyu Stay Nihombashi (東急ステイ日本橋), 4-7-9 Nihombashi-Honcho, ☏ , fax: . Slight discounts are offered for extended stays. Part of the Tokyu Stay chain, these hotels are popular with business travelers. The small kitchenettes, washer/dryers, and free LAN access in all rooms makes these a good value. Singles start at ¥9,450, twin rooms ¥17,850.
- 4 Tokyu Stay Tsukiji (東急ステイ築地), Tsukiji 4-11-5, ☏ . Part of the Tokyu Stay chain. Free internet access, microwave, washer-dryer, and kitchenette in each room. Good staff, views of nearby temple. Located very close to Tsukiji fish market, avoiding an early morning taxi ride. Singles from ¥9400, twins from ¥14,700 per night, breakfast included. Discounts for extended stays..