Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market
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."
source : (Mainichi Japan) December 3, 2008 - http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20081203p2a00m0na015000c.html