Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Touching, or Licking, at Tokyo Fish Market


The Tsukiji Fish Market had been closed to tourists for several months but now recently sections of the market have been reopened to tourists.  The official reason for the original closure was due to the busy year-end trade.

However, Japanese media had been reporting that the real reason was due to tourists getting in the way and not following the rules. "Bad Manners" by foreign tourists mainly.  This problem apparently had been growing recently due to the increasing popularity of the market as a tourist attraction, especially for foreigners.

Some fish traders had long complained of the tourist disruptions.  I have never visited Tsukiji but have known of it for a long time. I was always surprised that tourists were ever allowed to wander around the market.

The MSNBC article has a link to a video of a visitor to the market licking a very expensive tuna before it was sold at auction.  Apparently this being the final bad incident that led to the closure.

Now that the market is open again to visitors, precautions have been taken including etiquette flyer's and security guards during the auction.  Some are very happy of the return of the visitors however, including owners of the many small counter-only restaurants such as Oedo.

So, remember, when visiting Tsukiji.  DON'T KISS THE FISH. 


  1. Tsukiji is a good tourist destination. But when I went it really couldn't accommodate visitors. We had to thread our way though the forklifts, fish market refuse and stacks of pallets to finally find the unposted fish auction area where we stayed in a narrow area defined by 2 ropes laid out on the ground. It was truly fascinating see the fish being auctioned. But under those circumstances it probably shouldn't be open to tourists. They are lucky the incident, when it came, was just licking of a fish and not the death or serious injury of a visitor.

    I don't remember an official ban on tourists. But the statement, when it came was vaguely worded and ridden with foreigner prejudice. The market wasn't closed to tourists, they were just encouraged not to visit (especially foreign ones). But they could still go, but there will be a sign saying they can't. etc. etc. I don't know if there was ever a formal closure to tourists. Now its opened, with as far as I can see not a single statement of how they will prevent further problems.

    Tsukiji, by all accounts struggling financially, probably still has a golden opportunity to increase its revenue. All they would need to do is make some pathways, that are tourist safe, to the fish auction area, properly cordon off an area for tourists to watch the auctions from and make some places for tourists to spend some money (in addition to the great hole in the wall restaurants there). If they don't want to do that then they really should just close it to tourists.

    In this case, a little public relations, common sense and business smarts would have gone a long way.

  2. Anonymous11:09 PM


    I haven't been there either (though I loved Tsukiji Hongwanji, the temple nearby). I've heard from other sources that they too were surprised that the fish market was even allowed for tourists in the first place. It just seems such an odd fit. I am from Seattle where we have a large market as well (Pike's Place) that is very tourist-friendly, and has some famous fish stores among other over-priced wares. There, it's been designed pretty well to allow lots of foot traffic wandering in and out, so you can see the contrast.

  3. Hehe, I wonder if a foreigner's lick mark lowers the value of a fish?

  4. David, I read also that they will be closing Tsukiji and moving it to a new location, I believe with more room. Maybe better for visitors. But some controversy due to the new location site possibly having contaminated soil.

    365, I to have been to Pikes Place in Seattle. Yes, it was clearly designed as a tourist location.

    Yeah, John, maybe it got less for auction.

  5. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Tornado: Pike's Place is quite the tourist trap. ;)

    Anyways, if they move Tsukiji, I think it would be for the better. Larger area means more room for their wares, and more room for tourists to visit, though local restaurants at the old location would no doubt suffer.

  6. Great topic BTW. I hadn't see the Tuna licking picture before.

    The move would have to be a good thing. I think the site they are considering moving to is over in Odaiba (spelling?), the same area where they want to hold the 2016 Olympics. There is lots of room out there. I had not heard about the pollution concern.

    Its my understanding that the move is not popular with the market people.

    But if they do move then I hope they can make a market that is both business and tourist friendly. The current market is very much a working, commercial fish market.

    Perhaps they could make a section a bit like Pike Place Market or Sydney Fish Market where people could go and buy some fish, perhaps sit and have a meal etc and allow them to see the auctions without interfering in the operation of the market.


    ps. I haven't blogged in ages and ages. I think I'll try to dig up my Tsukiji pics and make a post.

  7. Sounds reasonable David.

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