Tsukiji to reopen tuna auctions to public after tourism ban

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Report

Staff report qq The famed Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo will allow tourists to resume watching its early-morning tuna auctions from Jan. 19 after a monthlong ban instituted in mid-December ends on Jan. 17, Tokyo government officials said Saturday.

Although the gigantic fish market in Chuo Ward run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has established a worldwide reputation through its own promotions, it put a 34-day ban in place on Dec. 15 to keep away “ill-mannered tourists” — most of them from abroad.

The market also cited hygiene risks and interference from curious onlookers attempting to touch the tuna and take flash photos — nuisances often raised by the auctioneers.

The ban also came in conjunction with the busy tuna trade before the New Year holidays.

The measure, which was publicized worldwide via foreign embassies in Tokyo and travel agencies, drew flak from the tourists.

But the market operator now says visitors to Tsukiji are an important tourism resource. Officials also said the metro government has obtained consent from market participants to resume access to the auctions.

According to the metro government, more than 500 tourists come to watch the tuna auctions at 5:30 each morning, and more than 90 percent of the visitors are from overseas.

After the reopening, the market will keep asking tourists to avoid touching the tuna with their hands or using their flashes when taking photos of the auctions.

When the tours resume, handbills printed with warnings in several languages will be handed out at the front gate of the market, while the tourist area at the auction site will be manned with security guards, the officials added.