There are travelers and there are tourists. Travelers explore new places, immerse themselves in diverse cultures and respect their experiences. Tourists gawk, point, mock and generally embarrass themselves while poorly representing their native cities and countries. Tourists ruin things for travelers. And that’s exactly what has happened at one of my favorite places in the world, Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market.
Tourists have officially been banned from the early morning tuna auctions at Tsukiji. The ban begins on December 15 and will be reviewed in mid-January to determine if it should be extended.
Fish traders have complained that the 200-300 visitors that crowd around the tuna auction everyday distract workers and pose safety risks. Back in April of this year, access to the auctions was limited in response to complaints that the flash photography was obscuring the hand gestures of traders and that the tourists’ poking and prodding of the fish created hygiene concerns. Now local media are blaming misbehaving tourists for the creation of the stricter ban. Fish market officials, eager to not offend foreign guests who are still welcome to tour the outer areas of the market, were quick to announce that the ban applies to Japanese tourists, as well.
If you’re heading to Japan, I still highly recommend a trip to Tsukiji. It’s a fascinating place, as you would expect from the world’s largest fish market. Be respectful of those around you, as that is their place of business and it’s an industrial area with heavy equipment and lots of people scurrying about. You are a guest in their workplace and you should behave accordingly. I hate to lecture, but, well, the hijinx of a few idiots can really ruin things for the rest of us.
As you go out into this great big world of ours, think before you act. And don’t touch other people’s fish.