January 19th, 2009
04:45 AM GMT
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TOKYO, Japan - Everybody I know has that odd uncle or aunt who seems to magically ruin the next wedding or family holiday meal; the relative who drinks too much or maybe says inappropriate things, wrecking what should be a pleasant night for the family. At Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market, it's not a family member but misbehaving tourists.

A tourist snaps a picture at Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market.
A tourist snaps a picture at Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market.

Japanese TV caught drunken tourists from London licking a US $10,000 tuna at the before-dawn auction.

A few minutes later, the camera crew videotaped French tourists joyriding on a fisherman's trolley.

Such behavior led the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to ban tourists from the market for one month, trying to give its multi-billion dollar tuna industry a brief respite.

The market estimates US$18 million worth of fish pass through Tsukiji everyday and are auctioned before dawn. That's US $4.8 billion a year.

That fish passing before point-and-shoot tourist cameras become sushi at some of the world's premier restaurants seems to elude some tourists, who might think they were at Disneyland, the working market says.

"The tourists sometimes bother us," says tuna wholeseller Junichi Honma, who bought US$50,000 worth of tuna at this morning's auction.

"The time is limited for the auction, only about an hour, and they think this is just a sightseeing show. This is our livelihood."

The market re-opened for tourists today and a few dozen tourists returned. Most were well-behaved, though a couple did nearly step on a US$8000 tuna.

They all seemed delighted to get a rare glimpse of commerce from the sushi nation of the world.

But for it to continue, the market is asking its international guests to use common sense while visiting.

For example, drinking at one of Tokyo's all-night clubs and immediately arriving for the tuna auction at 5:30 a.m. probably will make you a poor guest.

The market says it will try to keep the auction open for its visitors but adds that it all depends on future behavior.

So, for the sake of the majority of good visitors, please don't be that inappropriate relative. You've heard your mother complain about it.

It doesn't make her or this world-famous market very happy.

Watch my report of the footage that sparked the tourist ban.

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Filed under: BusinessJapan


soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Peko

    Drunken Brits licking tuna at Tsukiji? Wow! I was recently told off by a Brit for being American. We are obnoxious, I was told.

    Down here in Kyoto, we have a pretty large fish market, but tourists almost never go there. Well, if you are banned in Tokyo, you can still see a similar thing albeit on a smaller scale in Kyoto.

    It is really unfortunate that Tsukiji is banning tourists, even for just a month. Last spring I visited Tsukiji and it was incredible. I did notice that not many vendors were friendly, even though I spoke to them in Japanese.

    I suppose that they will turn the new Tsukiji market into a stadium format. Tourists can buy tickets and watch from the grandstand while the tuna guys go about their business.

    Too bad.

    KyotoFoodie – Peko

    January 19, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  2. Lauro Silva in Brazil

    Kyung LahWhat these misbehaving tourists deserve is to go behind bars, be fined and  be deported afterwards leaving their names on a persona non grata list. What tourists from London are doing on the streets and squares of Athens- Greece is more than a shameful behavior. It´s horrible. Lack of education, bad company and divorced parents are supposed to be the reasons for that. Unfortunately, bad things in the world are too far developed and the governments don´t manage no longer to get  the decensy back.

    January 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Justin

    Well, it's a start. Too many people come to Japan thinking this country is just a big playground which leaves life for non-Japanese people living in Japan sometimes bothersome. If I wanted an iPhone, for example, I would have had to pay for it all up front - no monthly payment plans like Japanese people can get - because too many people bought them and left the country without paying the total due. While some people may say that Japanese people tend to be xenophobic (and there may be evidence to support some of those claims), the Japanese also have a great number of reasons to want to restrict what non-Japanese people can do.

    See what I mean? http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=0pcrwIpdUtE

    January 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  4. gatkin09

    As a non Japanese resident of Japan I have learned to avoid anywhere tourists gather. I feel sorry for the Japanese having to put up with visitors who often just abuse the hospitality of the Japanese.

    January 23, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  5. Travel Insurance News

    i agreed with this site.."The tourists sometimes bother us," says tuna wholeseller Junichi Honma, who bought US$50,000 worth of tuna at this morning's auction.Travel Insurance News

    May 3, 2010 at 6:11 am |

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