Free Fresh Sanma!
Sanma Matsuri in Meguro

Autumn in Japan means time to eat! The autumn months are famous for all of the delicious foods it provides, such as shitake mushrooms, persimmons, and sweet potatoes. One of the most representative autumn foods is sanma (さんま), or saury. The fish is usually grilled and lightly seasoned with salt. In Tokyo’s Meguro ward, there is an annual Sanma Matsuri (festival), and here you can enjoy sanma for free!

About Meguro Sanma Matsuri

The Meguro Sanma Matsuri is held every September in the Meguro ward. It began in 1996, and every year, tens of thousands of people gather to eat sanma in Meguro. The festival was started to bring back the area’s warm, local, atmosphere in the now office building-jammed Meguro ward. Although the lines for the free sanma can get unbelievably long, the delicious grilled fish is worth the wait.

Why Sanma and Why Meguro?

The Meguro ward doesn’t have any ports or sanma-fishing businesses. So why is the sanma festival held in Meguro?

The festival has roots from a rakugo (Japanese storytelling) story. In the story, a feudal lord visits Meguro, but realizes he forgot to bring lunch with him. A peasant offers the lord grilled sanma, which was back then, known as a type of commoner’s cuisine. The lord was amazed by how delicious it was, but couldn’t have it back home at his palace.

One day, he went out to eat and ordered sanma. The chef would cook it in all sorts of fancy ways, but the lord was only disappointed by its quality since he was looking for a simple, grilled sanma dish. He asked his servant where the fish was from, and he answered that it was from the Nihombashi fish market. The lord shook his head in disapproval, and responded that sanma must be from Meguro.

Because of this rakugo story, Meguro has been commonly associated with sanma.

Meguro Sanma Festival 2018

The 23rd Meguro Sanma Matusri in 2018 will be held on September 9th, from 10:00a.m. to 2:00p.m.

Free Fresh Sanma!

Grilled Sanma

At the Meguro Sanma Matsuri, around 7,000 sanma fished in Iwate prefecure’s Port of Miyako, are served for free.
The fish are charcoal grilled and served simply with salt, grated daikon radish and sudachi, or Japanese citrus.

Everything used to cook up the sanma is specially selected.

Served with sudachi and grated daikon

The charcoal is from Wakayama prefecture, and is a high-grade charcoal. The sudachi is from Tokushima prefecture, which is famous for producing the most sudachi in Japan. The daikon comes from Tochigi prefecture, and has a bit of a spicy kick to it.

What time should I go?

Since the sanma is entirely free of charge at the festival, many people rush to Meguro on this day. The festival ends once all of the sanma has been given out.

Although the festival begins at 10:00a.m., most people get to the venue at around 8 or 9 and line up for the sanma. Getting to the festival at 10:00a.m. might not guarantee you your free sanma, so make sure to get there early and line up.

Another Sanma Matsuri in Meguro?

Charcoal grilled sanma

There is actually one more Sanma Matsuri in the Meguro ward. The other sanma festival is a part of the Meguro Kumin Matsuri, and at this festival too, visitors can enjoy free sanma. About 5,000 sanma from Miyagi prefecture’s city of Kesennuma are grilled and served for free.
In 2018, the Meguro Kumin Festival will be held on September 16th at Dendo Hiroba Park.

What time should I go?

Similar to the Meguro Sanma Matsuri, the Meguro Kumin Festival’s free sanma event is extremely popular and packed. For the Meguro Kumin Festival, the sanma is given out on a numbered ticket system. To receive a ticket, getting to the venue as early as 7 or 8a.m. is recommended.

Nearest station: Meguro Station (JR Lines, Tokyu Meguro Line)

From Tokyo Station

【Tokyo Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinagawa
→【Meguro Sta.】→ about a 1-minute walk

From Shinjuku Station

【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shibuya
→【Meguro Sta.】→ about a 1-minute walk

From Haneda Airport

【Haneda Airport Sta.】Keikyu Airport Line / for Shinagawa
→【Shinagawa Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinagawa
→【Meguro Sta.】→ about a 1-minute walk

From Narita Airport

【Narita Airport Station】Keisei Skyliner Limited Express / for Keisei Ueno
→【Keisei Ueno Sta.】about a 6-minute walk to Ueno Sta.
→【Ueno Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinagawa
→【Meguro Sta.】→ about a 1-minute walk


2-13-16 Kami-osaki, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
First or second Sunday of September from 10:00a.m. - 2:00p.m.

Nearby Destinations