Kii Katsuura Tuna Market (Is It Worth It?)

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura tuna market

After completing the Kumano Kodo hike, I made it a point to partake in the vibrant culture and traditions of Kii-Katsuura. 

And so I decided to explore the tuna market. The market is renowned for its early morning tuna auctions. The action begins at 7 am and has a more intimate feel than its more famous counterpart in Tokyo. And if you explore it with a tour guide, you’ll get to sample the freshest tuna you’ll ever get your hands on. 

Now you might be wondering, was it worth it? 


I was anticipating some intense bidding. Something similar to the bustle I experienced at the Toyosu Market. Instead, I witnessed a subdued activity. Given the town itself is laid back, this kinda made sense. 

At least the harbor area offered a glimpse into the life of the town’s fishing community. You might spot some fishermen bringing in their catches or see boats setting sail for the day’s fishing trip. 

In this post, I’ll shed some light on how to get to your destination and what to expect when you reach the observation decks. 

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura tuna market 2

The Largest Tuna Market Outside Of Tokyo

Kii-Katsuura fish market holds the title of the biggest tuna market in Japan outside of Tokyo. 

And for good reason. 

It boasts some of the best tuna fishing grounds in the country, with massive bluefin tuna weighing hundreds of pounds. While tuna is the main specialty, you’ll also spot other catches like sharks, swordfish, and more.

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura tuna market 3

The tuna is strictly controlled, ensuring only the highest quality. It must meet specific age and weight criteria, and net fishing is prohibited. They’re focused on mature tuna caught using line-fishing methods to ensure healthy fish stocks for the future.

Kii-Katsuura Tuna Market vs. The Tokyo Tuna Market

Tokyo’s market, Toyosu, is larger and retains its status as the biggest fish market in the world. For this reason, it draws in a crowd. It’s vibrant and boasts a large selection of fish.

On the other hand, Kii-Katsuura offers a more intimate and authentic experience. Though it’s popular with tourists and locals alike, you don’t necessarily have to arrive early to witness the auction. It has a local feel and offers the opportunity to witness the auction without the overwhelming crowds of Toyosu.

How to Get There

From Osaka, you’ll take a train to Kii-Katsuura. The market is just a short walk (about five minutes) from Kii-Katsuura Station.

You’ll want to get to the market early(ish), around 7am.

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura tuna market 4

This is a whole lot more friendly than the Tokyo market which kicks off around 4.30am!

But still, it’s a long train ride from Osaka so you’ll probably need to stay in or around Nachi Katsuura the night before if you want to attend the market.

Opening Hours

The market itself is generally open from sunrise until around 4 pm, but the real action starts at 7 am. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to get there that early. The area doesn’t get too crowded and you might find the auction’s still underway at 9 am. 

If you want to witness the start of the auction, from the unloading of the catch to the setup, there’s definitely nothing wrong with getting there as early as 7:00 am.

Tuna Auction Tours

Tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at the auction process. And since you can’t participate in the bidding process, you’ll at least get an idea of the methods that go into sourcing the seafood you’ll eventually enjoy at nearby restaurants. 

Tristan Balme Kii Katsuura Tuna Auction Tours
Photo credit: h3ct02 from Getty Images

You’ll have access to both paid and free tours. If you’re watching the auction from the second-floor observation deck, the entire spectacle is free. 

For a closer view and a better understanding of the bidding process, you can pay to walk on the floor itself. This is apt in that you also get to understand the factors that go into determining the final price. After the auction, you’ll get to sample the tuna of the day. You’ll have to book in advance and pay a fee of around 1000 yen.

Here’s what you can expect during your paid tour: 

  • Early morning access to the market
  • Certified guide
  • Learn about the different types of tuna and the bidding process
  • Light tuna breakfast 

What to Expect

Early Morning Arrival

Be prepared for an early start. Aim to arrive at the market around 7 am to get a decent spot on the observation deck. During this time, you’ll also get to witness the offloading of the fish and the entire setup.

Tristan Balme offloading of tuna
Photo credit: GI15702993 from Getty Images

Large tuna on display

Even if you don’t understand the auction process, the size of the tuna on display is enough to leave your jaw dropped. These aren’t your average supermarket cuts. You’ll see large specimens, some weighing over 150 kg with prices up to 300,000 yen.

Tristan Balme tuna display
Photo credit: razaklatif from Getty Images Pro

Quiet bidding process

As mentioned, the auction is not the liveliest. It’s mellow and goes on like that until the bidding is finished. The entire process involves a group of restaurant owners and several other buyers walking around and observing the fish quality before they place a bid. 

Tristan Balme frozen tuna
Photo credit: kmtitchener from Getty Images

Bids are collected in a wooden box, checked, and the winner gets announced. From here, the fish is packaged in labeled styrofoam containers and tossed with ice to retain its freshness. 

Tuna sampling

After the auction, you’ll find a variety of seafood dish options at the market stalls. They offer sashimi, sushi, and more. 

Tristan Balme fresh tuna
Photo credit: elxeneize

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What To Do In Kii Katsuura (7 Must-See Attractions)

Kii-Katsuura might be home to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route, but that’s not the only...

Kii Katsuura Tuna Market (Is It Worth It?)

After completing the Kumano Kodo hike, I made it a point to partake in the...

The Best Hotel In Dalhousie, Sri Lanka (For Hiking Adams Peak)

Dalhousie might be a compact village, but it has a range of accommodation options to...

The Best Travel Insurance for Climbing Kilimanjaro (And Who I Used!)

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro comes with risks and uncertainties you need to be prepared for.. In...

Brewster Glacier Hike (1 Day vs. Overnight)

Brewster Glacier is the most accessible glacier in the Mount Aspiring National Park as you...

5 Best Bike Rental Companies in Leh, Ladakh (Revised For 2024)

There are several bike rental companies in Leh, Ladakh. But not all of them are...