During his formative years in university as a student of optical science, Tsuruta, who had initially wanted to be a photographer, had been inspired by the works of numerous science fiction authors, such as Robert A. Heinlein, and manga artists, such as Yukinobu Hoshino and his manga Saber Tiger, which had inspired him to create manga. He has also cited Tetsuya Chiba and his manga among his inspirations.
Soon after graduating, he wrote numerous dōjinshi and was an assistant to numerous manga artists, prior to making his debut as a professional manga artist. In 1986, Tsuruta made his professional debut, authoring his first manga series, the short work, Hiroku te suteki na uchū ja nai ka (広くてすてきな宇宙じゃないか?, a.k.a. What a Big Wonderful Universe It Is), which was serialized in Kodansha's Weekly Morning seinen magazine, set in a world where the land was sinking into water. Tsuruta has cited that the inspiration to this debut work of his came during a train journey from Tokyo to the ocean at Odawara, during which he had seen numerous rice paddies and thought of the possibility of a train line passing through the ocean, after which he wanted to create a work where he could use this image.
Soon after, Tsuruta authored Spirit of Wonder, among his most famous works, in which he applied many of his inspirations, which was serialized in Kodansha's seinen magazines Weekly Morning and Afternoon between 1987 and 1996, and was later adapted into an anime series.
After Spirit of Wonder, Tsuruta wrote short manga works, and also illustrated numerous art books, which were quite successful. In 2002, he provided the character designs for the anime series Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai and also authored its manga adaptation.
In 2000 and 2001, Tsuruta received the 31st and 32nd Seiun Awards for outstanding artist of the year. He has also received the Hayakawa Award for best illustrator, in 2000.