Tokyo’s Toyosu Wholesale Market, the primary fish market in Japan, has been struggling to attract visitors to watch its tuna auctions.
Its predecessor, the Tsukiji Market, was a major tourist draw in the Tokyo area, but its famed tuna auctions were moved to Toyosu last year. Even though a specially designed glass-enclosed viewing area was opened in the new market on 15 January, tourists have been staying away.
SeafoodSource visited both the Toyosu facility and the remaining Outer Market at Tsukiji. Toyosu has the sterile and high-security feel of an airport, while the Outer Market at Tsukiji retains the hustle and bustle, noises, smells, and quirkiness of the past. During SeafoodSource’s visit, there were few visitors at Toyosu, and most of these as part of bus tours for elderly Japanese. Tsukiji Outer Market was crowded with Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians, and Japanese tourists, poking through the narrow walkways.
At Tsukiji, visitors were allowed to view tuna auctions on a first-come, first-served basis, without needing to make prior applications or reservations. As a result, visitors lined up for hours before the start of tuna auctions.
But at Toyosu, reservations for the viewing room must be made two weeks ahead, either online or over the phone. If the number of people making applications exceeds the limit of 120 a day, applicants are selected at random for a spot. Groups can register together, but the names of all the members must be included in the reservation. Frequently, those who have registered fail to appear on the day they have been assigned a spot.
Few foreigners are using the new system. Most view the auction from a window in the second-floor walkway, which does not allow them to hear the lively bidding, but only view the action.
To promote the use of the observation deck by foreign visitors, the metropolitan government has added information on the reservation system to the English page of the official website for the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. It remains to be seen how this will affect the new market’s popularity with Tokyo’s tourists, who form a not-insignificant portion of the city’s economy.