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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Tsukiji looks to curb glut of pesky tourists


Staff writer

The Tsukiji Fish Market, one of Tokyo's most popular and well-known tourist draws, has adopted rules urging visitors to voluntarily "refrain from coming," because of sanitation concerns and the disruptions they pose to auctions.

News photo
Tourists watch a tuna auction in the early morning of Jan. 26 at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. REIJI YOSHIDA PHOTO

The new rules, decided Wednesday, will debut 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, Tsukiji now finds itself the victim of its own success: So many visitors flock to the gigantic fish market in Chuo Ward each day that they pose a hygiene risk and interfere with business, wholesalers and others there say.

Hideji Otsuki, head of the wholesale market, 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 by phone. "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 the ill-mannered may be escorted off the premises by security guards, he said.

The decision was adopted by a council comprising representatives of 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 signal by hand, the process can be disrupted by flash-popping photographers.

The new rules will require that all outside visitors submit an application in advance to enter the market. 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 a flash at 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.

According to a note attached to the new regulations, the market will not accept 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 enter and leave the facility every business day.



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