Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month


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Hi Blog. Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below — the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, where the fish is also good.


Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market
(Mainichi Japan) December 3, 2008

Courtesy of several submitters

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced a month-long ban on visitors to the famous fish auctions in Tsukiji from mid-December, blaming large numbers of foreign tourists for obstructing business.

The metropolitan government has sent out a notice of the ban to embassies, hotels, travel companies and other businesses across the capital.

The Tuna Markets, as they are known, are one of the three most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, alongside Akihabara and Asakusa. During early morning hours there were nearly 500 visitors on some days; but many working at the markets have complained of visitors’ showing a lack of courtesy to staff.

According to a tuna wholesalers’ association, the rush in foreign visitors started with the “sushi boom” 10 or so years ago, and has grown especially severe over the past five to six years, following news of the market’s planned closure.

While the auctions are technically off-limits to spectators, auctioneers have informally allowed people to watch from a designated area of the auction hall. With many taking flash photography or touching the produce, however, auctioneers and market workers alike have often been disturbed by visitors: “They can’t understand the language, so we can’t even warn them,” complained one.

As a result, the metropolitan government has informed various tourism-related organizations of their decision to ban spectators at the morning auctions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17.

“It’s not a bad thing for Tsukiji to gain attention, but with the risk of injury to visitors, and the potential to affect business during the busy Year End and New Year season, it’s unavoidable,” said a metropolitan official. But it’s likely to take time for the news to filter round through signboards and leaflets, as there are many foreigners who visit the auctions individually after learning about the place by word of mouth.

One Tokyo hotel said: “We’ve explained you can’t enter the auction area before, but if you are asked for directions to Tsukiji, you have no choice but to tell them. All we can do is leave it to the judgment of our guests.”


Original Japanese story
築地市場:競り見学中止 外国人観光客マナー悪い
毎日新聞 2008年12月3日 15時00分(最終更新 12月3日 16時55分)






11 comments on “Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month

  • Standard problem with the press putting the xenophobic spin in only the Japanese version of an article for the consumption of the Japanese populace as if gaijin can’t possibly read it aside…

    This presents a chance to those willing, to document the enforcement of this supposed ban on ALL tourists both Japanese and foreign. People interested in human rights should conduct experiments starting Dec 16th. Results to Youtube.

    I suspect that some Japanese are still going to be able to get in, while obviously foreign people are not. Will Japanese shutterbugs be turned away? Or let in with a nod and a wink because only Japanese people “understand the rules”.
    Or just “not seen”, since any Japanese-looking person COULD be a customer and isn’t even worth questioning, whereas any foreign-looking person MUST be a tourist and will stand out [even though it is most likely that Asian tourists or even Japanese tourists are the ones in the large groups] especially now the government edict has been passed down and the press blames foreigners.

    Would love to see a controlled experiment:
    Japanese, Chinese, White, Indian or Arab, African
    all foreigners fluent in Japanese
    sent in various sized groups
    sent either with or without camera gear
    See who gets turned away.

    I do agree that Tsukiji is not a place for tourists. I’ve been there once, and felt so out of place, almost got hit by forklifts or carts a couple times and I was being careful. Even though most of the fishmongers were quite friendly [this was long before the current crowd problems] It is almost as absurd as gaggles of tourists just walking into a Toyota automobile production line and snapping phtos amongst the wildly swinging arc-welding robot arms. They SHOULD ban the genreal public from entry, with things like gates and basic security procedures. But will the powers that be just turn this into another race-based ban?

  • Looks like the articles (in both languages) already basically addressed your question of “nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?”:

    ‘One Tokyo hotel said: “We’ve explained you can’t enter the auction area before, but if you are asked for directions to Tsukiji, you have no choice but to tell them. All we can do is leave it to the judgment of our guests.”’

    Signs and verbal warnings are not enough for some people. I don’t know how many times, for example, I’ve been somewhere and seen signs or heard announcements saying “no flash photography”, and yet morons are still using flashes. And yes, these are morons being told in their native language.

    The question should not be “why is Tsukiji now banning tourists” but “why did it ever let them in to begin with”. And the tourists are not customers in Tsukiji – they are people getting in the way of the customers, and the people who are trying to work. Most tourists actually do not go to eat in the restaurants after the tour, it is too early in the morning for lunch anyway. They walk in, take pictures, get in the way, and then wander off to the next tourist trap. Tsukiji is where jet-lagged tourists who can’t sleep anyway go at 6 in the morning to “see Japan” while they are waiting for the rest of Tokyo to open up. The restaurants (if you can call a closet with a counter in it a “restaurant”) are there for the people who actually work in Tsukiji or are there to buy fish. Not for the tourists.

    Besides, how would you like it if someone decided your classroom was a great spot for tourists to wander into to see the wonders of a Japanese university? I bet you’d get tired of it real quick.

    — Okay… now why have the media etc. blame foreigners? Tourists are tourists regardless of nationality, and if as you say those morons are even being told something in their own native language and still not obeying the rules, then the language barrier claims are moot.

    Blame somebody for getting in the way, sure. Close the market to the outside world, okay. But don’t say it’s because of foreigners. That too often causes a fallacious and knee-jerk linkage, especially in Japan. Arguably it already has.

    Finally, the places I’ve eaten in Tsukiji (yes, restaurants) are definitely open to the outside world, not just for the Tsukiji workers, especially in the early morning when the sushi is freshest.

  • I saw this story on the news a few days ago. I was quite shocked to see in the background of the footage one of the market employees smoking a cigarette while working! I was totally stunned, I thought the market was reknowned for its quality produce, and there they are contaminating the food with fag smoke. It does not make sense to complain about people touching the produce and at the same time allow smoking around it.

    Anyway, surely they should ban all visitors, not just NJ.

  • They should bulldoze the whole complex and rebuilt it so it has facilities to handle tourists e.g. Viewing deck, presentation room, run seafood cooking classes, souvenir shop etc. It would be very profitable for everyone.

    Here is info about New Zealand’s fish market. I sometimes take managers from food manufacturers in Japan to it. Obviously it is not the same scale as Tsukiji, but they are impressed with the operations of it and sanitation standards.

  • Saw this news on TV in the past year. There was no need for language of any kind to be argued here. One scene clearly showed a non-Japanese tourist standing right NEXT TO a sign indicating no flash pictures (flash with a line drawn through it), yet the person was popping flashes. These get in the way of serious business, as the news has reported, so I am in favor of banning any tourists there. Are any allowed on the stock market exchange blinding the workers?

    Non-Japanese tourists have actually hugged, not just “touched” large fish in picture poses. Health hazard galore. At least the Japanese tourists can be told hands off, as if they would even think of doing such a novel thing.

    Signs indicating walkways and forbidden areas have been ignored. If the vendors claim it’s mostly or all by non-Japanese tourists, what’s the problem with writing it up in the news? They’d be the ones who know, right?

  • Debito here again. Regarding the clip above, James at Japan Probe wondered out loud:

    Given the absolutely ridiculous level of rudeness shown in the news clip, it almost seems like some of these guys showed up with the aim of breaking rules and acting like jerks. Could it be possible that they heard the news about the ban and decided to drop by Tsukiji to intentionally cause grief for the fishermen?

    Something does seem a tad, ahem, fishy here. Debito

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    From the local press:

    [Quote]The Tsukiji fish market in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, has decided to resume accepting visits by tourists to its tuna auction area from Jan. 19, but will have security guards lead sightseers around so they do not cause a nuisance.

    The market will announce its decision to people and companies with ties to the market, as well as hotels and travel companies, next week.

    Though the early morning tuna auction is a big draw for tourists from overseas, the Tokyo metropolitan government prohibited sightseers from entering the auction site from Dec. 15 because of a large number of incidents in which tourists entered restricted areas or disrupted auctions by taking photos with flashes.

    The Japanese version has more about signage and English language info about the rules.





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