Tsukiji fish market to stop tuna viewings for tourists ahead of move to Toyosu

AFP-JIJI

Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market will stop admitting tourists to watch its pre-dawn tuna auctions next month as it prepares to move on Oct. 11, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

After more than 80 years in operation, the world’s largest fish market — and a popular tourist attraction in an area packed with restaurants and shops — will move east to Toyosu, the site of a former gas plant.

The market, which opened in 1935, is best known for its pre-dawn daily auctions of tuna, caught from around the world, for use by everyone from top Michelin-starred sushi chefs to ordinary grocery stores.

Despite starting at 5:30 a.m. the lively tuna auctions are considered a must-see for visitors to the capital, with daily tourist numbers capped at 120 people.

The early hour does not seem to put off the tourist crowds and “some tourists start lining up at around 2 a.m.,” the spokeswoman from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said.

But access to the tuna auction will end on Sept. 15 as preparatory work for the move gets under way, she added.

Viewing wholesale markets for marine products and vegetables will end on Sept. 29, before the complete Tsukiji market closure on Oct. 6, she said.

“In Toyosu, too, we plan to open a deck for visitors, and also there will be a special aisle for viewers where tourists will be able to watch the tuna auction through a glass wall,” the spokeswoman said.

The Tsukiji market handles 480 kinds of seafood worth $14 million daily, as well as 270 types of fruits and vegetables, and has fed the nation’s hunger for fresh seafood since its opening.

But in recent years the antiquated facility has prompted users to voice concerns about its earthquake resistance, sanitation and fire safety, among others.

Plans to move Tsukiji were originally scheduled for 2016, but several delays including the discovery of soil contamination at Toyosu have set back the timeline.

Tsukiji will be transformed into a transport hub during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with its long-term future still undecided.