Yes sir! A much beloved Tuna Roadshow was scheduled to be held at Costco on 7 November according to the English on their advertisement. It would seem that the English was designed to attract foreigners who might not be familiar with the concept of Tuna Roadshows, which we imagine would include…everyone.

I’m guessing it’s a show where people dust off that old fish lying in their attic and take it to tuna experts to see how much money they’re worth. Either that or someone did a half-assed job on the translation.

“I got an email from Costco that said ‘Maguro Kaitai is coming!’ but I didn’t know that ‘Maguro Kaitai Show’ is ‘Tuna Roadshow’ in English. It’s a phrase that has the power to crush people’s sides with laughter.”

In fairness to Costco, as a performance in which a whole fresh tuna is carved and served to the viewers as sashimi, “Maguro Kaitai Show” is tough to translate. “Kaitai” is often used to mean “demolition,” and can usually be seen on the signs of wrecking yards.

However, “Tuna Demolition Show” can conjure up some disgusting mental imagery. That’s not to say Maguro Kaitai Shows are squeaky clean affairs, though, as they involve cutting up a large tuna into several pieces starting with decapitation.

“Dismantling” seems to be a more appropriate interpretation of “kaitai” after watching just how quickly they can disassemble the fish into its edible components as if stripping down a stolen car. The Japan Association of Dismantling for Tuna appears to agree.

Where Costco got the idea to use “roadshow” I have no idea though. The term “roadshow” is used often in Japanese to refer to the release of a feature length film in theaters or sometimes on television.

It’s a leftover loan word from the American cinema business in the mid-20th century to refer to a limited-release movie with reserved seating, higher ticket prices, and souvenir programs for sale. Considering all of these things are still done regularly in Japanese movie theaters it’s actually a surprisingly accurate term.

Where Costco got the idea to use it for their Tuna Roadshow I have no clue, but much like the idea of a seafood appraisal program that it conjures in some English speakers’ minds, quite a few Japanese people had absurd images come to mind, as evidenced by their comments.

“Mad Max: Tuna Road”
“The Crab Roadshow is coming later this year.”
“It makes no sense at all, but I love it.”
“Did they get an elementary student to translate that?”
“This is why I love Twitter.”
“They should call it Tuna Genocide Party instead.”
“I don’t get it. Someone tell me why this is funny?”

If “Tuna Genocide Party” isn’t adopted as the formal English name for this event then it would probably be best to call it a “Tuna Kaitai Show.” It seems fair to maintain the Japanese name for a form of Japanese entertainment that started in the prisons, moved into fish markets, and now can often be found in wedding receptions – much like the song “Y.M.C.A.”

Source: Twitter/@Geroko via Hachima Kiko (Japanese)
Images: Google Images, YouTube/keitankuns, Japan Association of Dismantling for Tuna