Plan for new marketplace on Tsukiji site gets mixed reviews

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Moves by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to build a new marketplace on the site of the Tsukiji market have drawn mixed reactions, with some critics saying it is an attempt to bulldoze through the controversial relocation of the famed fish market to a new site.

According to plans revealed Tuesday, the new market will be built on the site of the Kachidokimon parking garage next to Tsukiji’s outer market. The facility will have approximately 100 shops selling fish and fresh vegetables to professional chefs and ordinary customers alike.

Tokyo and Chuo Ward said that they plan to open the facility before the Tsukiji wholesale market relocates to Toyosu in Koto Ward in 2014, in the hopes of inheriting the dynamic feel of the nation’s largest, busiest and best-known fish and vegetable market.

“We intend to take over the ‘food culture’ that has been cultivated in Tsukiji,” Chuo Ward Mayor Yoshihide Yada said at a news conference.

Some experts and Tsukiji players who have continued to express grave concerns about the safety of the relocation site in Koto Ward said the move to build a new market at the old site ignores their concerns and turns a blind eye to the problems in Toyosu.

“We had heard rumors before (about the new marketplace), but this was the first time that the actual blueprint was revealed,” Takashi Saito, who heads a nonprofit organization that opposes the move to Toyosu, told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

“It is suspicious that they are already working on the premise that the 2014 relocation of Tsukiji market to Toyosu is a done deal,” he said.

The safety of the relocation site has been in question since 2001, when Tokyo Gas Co., which had a factory there, revealed that the area contains high levels of lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, cyanogen and benzene.

While the metropolitan government has insisted that safety can be ensured, opponents have sharply criticized moving the market to a site so heavily polluted.

“We intend to continue our efforts as long as there is a chance that we can stop the relocation of the Tsukiji wholesale market to Toyosu,” Saito said.

Chuo Ward has allocated around ¥31 million in its fiscal 2012 budget toward projects related to building the new marketplace. The ward said it also plans to improve services for tourists visiting the area.