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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuna auction reopens to tourists

Staff writer

The tuna auction at Tokyo's popular Tsukiji fish market reopened Monday to the public with new restrictions following a monthlong ban leveled after tourists obstructed business.

News photo
They're baaaack: Tourists line up to watch a tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo on Monday morning after it reopened to the public following a monthlong ban. KYODO PHOTO

Shortly after tourists started entering early in the morning, the new limit of 140 was reached. Several other people were turned away.

The lucky ones who got in were orderly and there were no disruptions, Tsukiji official Yoshiaki Takagi said.

"Tsukiji does not consider this a place for sightseeing," Takagi said. "Visitors should never obstruct the businesses."

He said visitor numbers started growing several years ago, and their camera flashes have been blamed for disrupting the auction.

In 2008 the market, a popular attraction following writeups in guidebooks, demarcated an observation area for up to 80 people. But early last month, more than 500 visitors swarmed to the auction area in one day, interfering with operations and endangering their own safety, Takagi said.

Tsukiji officials felt compelled to temporarily close the auction to the public while they worked out the new system of limiting the daily crowd to 140, with visitors divided into two groups that are allowed to enter at different times.

On Monday the doors were opened to visitors at 4:30 a.m. and people soon lined up in front of the Fish Information Center, a reception and registration desk. No more were allowed in after 5:13 a.m., although people continued to arrive.

Ray Shaw, a 63-year-old engineer from Malaysia who wanted to see the auction with his wife and a business colleague, was one of those who missed out.

"We are disappointed," he said. "We will come back."

Diana Decicco, a 26-year-old restaurant worker from New York, said she was satisfied that she was finally able to visit Tsukiji.

"I've been reading about this market for years," Decicco said. "I really really wanted to see it. There is nothing in the world like it."

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The Japan Times

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