Speaking of Tsukiji and tourism… Japan Times on new rules to limit tourists


Speaking of Tsukiji and tourism…

Tsukiji looks to curb glut of pesky tourists with new rules
The Japan Times: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008
By REIJI YOSHIDA Staff writer
Courtesy of Ben and Adam

The Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the capital’s most popular and well-known tourist draws, adopted rules urging visitors to voluntarily “refrain from coming,” because of sanitation concerns and the disruptions they pose to the auction business.

To new rules, which were decided on Tuesday, will be introduced in April, according to a document obtained by The Japan Times.

The plan is to reduce — but not cut off — the number of onlookers. After being promoted in recent years as a tourist site [Their official tourist information site here.], Tsukiji now finds itself the victim of its own success: So many visitors flock to the gigantic fish market each day that they are endangering its sanitation and interfering with business, wholesalers and others there say.

Hideji Otsuki, head of the wholesale market in Chuo Ward, said the request is aimed at getting tourists to exercise voluntary restraint.

“The situation won’t drastically change overnight because Tsukiji has become so well-known among (tourists) via the Internet,” Otsuki said in a phone interview. “But we’d like to gradually change the situation by widely advertising the new rules.”

Tourists who arrive unaware of the new rules won’t be kicked out, but ill-mannered ones may be escorted off the premises by security guards, he said.

The decision was adopted by a council comprising representatives from fish wholesalers, drinking and eating establishments in the market, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which operates Tsukiji. No one opposed the new regulations, Otsuki said.

Fish merchants have complained that tourists occasionally try to touch the fish and other seafood, raising sanitation concerns.

During auctions, when buyers are signally by hand, the process can be disrupted by flash-popping photographers.

The new rules will require that all outside visitors submit an application to enter the market in advance. People who come merely for sightseeing will be “asked to refrain from entering,” according to Article 6 of the new rules.

The notes under Article 6, however, explain that visitors who are unaware of the new restrictions will be allowed to enter but will be asked to abide by the new rules, which are expected to be posted.

Taking photos with flash at fish auction sites and smoking except for at designated areas will be prohibited because it may hinder market operations.

Visitors will also be asked not to bring babies, baby strollers or other large baggage, including suitcases, under the new regulations.

According to a note attached to the new regulations, the market will disclaim any liability for accidents that happen inside the market.

The sprawling 24-hour market, surrounded by walls and pocked with several gates, is lightly guarded because an estimated 42,000 people and 19,000 trucks incessantly enter and leave the facility each business day.

The Japan Times: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

10 comments on “Speaking of Tsukiji and tourism… Japan Times on new rules to limit tourists

  • I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, everyone can claim ignorance a few times, and I’m sure they won’t be taking names down. Why don’t they just say “don’t touch the fish and turn off your flash when you take pictures”? They make things SO difficult…

  • If they are so worried by sanitation, then perhaps they should do something about the dire lavatories. For all its hygene and anal attention to sanitation and cleanliness, Japan has some of the worst public lavatories i have ever seen anywhere in the world, and i’ve seen some really bad ones!

    FYI, greece has the worst i’ve ever seen…


  • I think these are legitimate concerns from the management but they need to look at more practical solutions rather than just discouraging tourists to come. Such as signs and area restrictions for non buyers etc. Especially all the work that the Government is doing to try to encourage tourism.

  • Debito

    If you’re unsure how my comments relate, I quote from the article above

    “…adopted rules urging visitors to voluntarily “refrain from coming,” because of sanitation concerns…”

    So, the sanitation is a concern. This being the operative word…sanitation. Hence my comment. But if you feel the word “sanitation” and its ramifications are not relevant, how on earth is one to explore the rationale behind such comments, by both sides?

    Since it appears you’re coming from a biased subjective point of view of the connotations of the word sanitation. Or is the raison d’etre to just nod in acquiescence and not explore the philosophy taken by both sides and hence try and affect positive change and education?

    But to say you’ll delete because you don’t feel it is relevant, is no different to the position of the “Japanese people only” picture. They don’t want anyone except Japanese, and you don’t want anyone except those relevant to your point of view. Because you don’t understand someone’s point of view, doesn’t make it right or wrong or “relevant”. Deleting it, owing to “relevance” just makes it censorship, which is the same as discrimination!


  • I wonder how they will determine “visitors” and “tourist”. As long as it is applied equally to all homosapiens, I really do not mind.

  • Something in Japanese culture trains them that it is better to refuse people than educate them, which seems to be a paradox. To me, it seems it would save more face to communicate and educate than publicly prohibit people. “Communication” is a buzzword in Japan, but there isn’t much communication in these cases. Of course, they may have tried educating the general public and found, “it didn’t work.” I guess if they are discriminating against Japanese AND gaijin it’s ok, as long as they’re consistent?

  • Japan has some of the worst public lavatories i have ever seen anywhere in the world, and i’ve seen some really bad ones!

    I think the writer forget to mention how Japan also keeps its dogs chained up all the time. And poor Japanese driving habits. And salarymen reading “porno comics on the train.”

  • How can visitors still be allowed in if they are aware of the restrictions and the need for a permission slip…
    I can see it now…
    Japanese Busybody
    ” you cannot enter the market! You need a permission slip”

    “Um, according to Article 6, you have to let me in”

    “HaHa! Only if you are unaware of Article 6! You see, it is a catch 22!”

    “Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese. Lemme through!”

  • Having actually been to Tsukiji Fish Market, I totally agree with the fishmongers’ desire to limit access. (I’m assuming that some commenters have not been, so here’s some perspective.)

    Back in my second month in Japan, I showed up bright and early, took the first train, just as my guidebook recommended. This was about 10 years ago, apparently before the more recent tourism boom.
    It is a busy, hectic place, strange fish everywhere and very cool.
    BUT, there are carts full of hundreds of pounds of fish, and forklifts and such buzzing around.
    I felt like I was walking through a factory unescorted, and had to be nimble on my
    feet to avoid getting run over a couple times, and found myself thinking,
    “I can’t beleive they let just anyone walk in here!”
    Nobody yelled at me or anything, a couple men even said a hearty “Good morning!”
    in English, but I felt not only conspicuous, but also that I clearly
    was in the wrong place and getting in the way, a danger to myself and others.

    Unrestricted public access to Tsukiji now seems about as ridiculous as Toyota granting free, unescorted public access to its factories, “Watch out for that robo-THUNK!”

    The better solutions would be to somehow designate or recommend relatively “safe”
    areas of the market, if that’s even possible.
    Or limit access to less hectic times.
    Or just say “Customers only, you can only come in if you’re gonna buy or sell fish.”
    Or run tours and sell tickets.

    This is not really a Japanese/foreigner issue. It’s a safety issue, I think the public in general should not be wandering around in there. I certainly wouldn’t go walking around the depths of the market again.

    But it will become a foreigner issue because foreigners are easy to spot as tourists and excluded, while Japanese tourists could more freely walk in.

  • Tsukiji is originally not a place for tourist to visit.
    No Japanese has such stupid idea to visit Tsukiji for tourism because it is a common sence that Tsukiji is a market limited for wholesalers. And the market is not interesting at all for most of Japanese. Nothing new, nothing cool. My foreign friends who visited there said that it was wonderful though.
    It is mere a recent boom for foreign tourists to visit Tsukiji market just for fun. At first, a few foreigners got into the market by mistake since they could not read Japanese signs of “NO VISITORS without PERMISSION”. Then, foreigners increased by rumour. The signs are written in English now, but ignored completely. The tourits also ignore what market staff say. The bad behavior of foreign tourists is also reported by Japanese medias quite often.
    Imagine that a bunch of tourists visit your office every day and disturb your job. It is so tiring to say “don’t touch the goods and turn off your flash when you take pictures”? to each tourist.

    –“No Japanese has such stupid idea to visit Tsukiji for tourism”?  Glad you can speak for all of us without exception, especially when I’ve seen plenty of Japanese tourists there.  And all of Tsukiji’s problems are caused by foreigners?  Who “completely ignore” the rules?  Good Japanese, bad foreigners… how simple that dichotomy must make your world.  Here’s hoping a person with your attitudes is not in charge of a business in Japan.


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