National

Once a hot ticket at Tsukiji, Tokyo's Toyosu market struggles to attract tourists to its tuna auctions

JIJI

The Toyosu wholesale market in Tokyo’s Koto Ward has been struggling to attract visitors to watch tuna auctions even though a designated viewing area was opened about a month ago.

The now-defunct Tsukiji market had been flooded with people looking to witness its tuna auctions, which became a hugely popular event for domestic and foreign visitors alike.

But the auction has been slow to catch on at Toyosu, partly due to a rule change that requires applications be made in advance, causing a headache for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which operates the market.

The Toyosu facility opened in October last year, taking over from the Tsukiji market in Chuo Ward.

At Tsukiji, visitors were allowed to view tuna auctions on a first-come, first-served basis, without needing to make prior applications or reservations. As a result, visitors lined up for hours before the start of tuna auctions.

The observation deck for the tuna auction was opened on Jan. 15 at Toyosu, but visitors need to apply in advance either online or over the phone.

If the number of people making applications tops the limit of 120 a day, successful applicants are selected at random.

The number of applicants, however, has been far below that threshold, apparently because applications must be made half a month before a visit and many people are unaware of the system. In addition, some of the successful applicants have failed to show up on their scheduled day.

Up to five people can apply as a group, but the names of all visitors must be submitted. This requirement is also believed to be dragging down the number of applicants.

In fact, the number of non-Japanese viewing tuna auctions at the designated area in groups has been small.

Many foreign visitors are instead going to a passage on the second floor of the Toyosu market’s wholesale building, where the auction can be viewed without making any prior arrangements.

Tokyo officials say they want more people to take in the auction from the observation area, noting that the space allows visitors to take in the sounds of the lively event, including the ringing of the opening bell and the energetic calls of the sellers and buyers.

“Visitors can feel the vibrant atmosphere of auctions, which is not possible from the second-floor passage,” a metropolitan government official said.

As part of measures to promote the use of the observation deck by foreign visitors, the metropolitan government has added related information to the English page of the official website for the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market.

“We hope many people, including foreigners and families, will visit the Toyosu market” as the spring holiday season is set to start, the official said.

For information on visiting Toyosu market, visit the website www.shijou.metro.tokyo.jp/english/toyosu/index.html#VisitorsRules.