Masuzoe favors leisure use for Tsukiji site, says public participation crucial in Olympics preparations

by

Staff Writer

After Olympic host Rio de Janeiro wraps up events this year, attention will turn to Tokyo, and Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe seems ready for it.

“All eyes around the world will turn to Tokyo,” Masuzoe told The Japan Times earlier this month.

In the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Masuzoe hopes to improve Tokyo both for tourists and residents.

One large-scale construction plan underway is the relocation of Tsukiji fish market to the Toyosu district in Koto Ward in November. The hectic, noisy, colorful market is popular with tourists.

Masuzoe says the real challenge is what to do with the vacated 23-hectare site at Tsukiji.

“It’s just one idea, but that place is very suitable for a dating place,” Masuzoe said.

Visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Tokyo Bay waterfront both day and night, and the posh Ginza shopping district is within walking distance, he said.

“From commerce to good food … I hope to rebuild the area as something pleasing for everyone,” said Masuzoe.

Speculation is rife that a sports stadium and mega-shopping complex will be built at the site, although this may be after the Olympics takes place.

Commenting on whether the fish market relocation would affect tourism, Masuzoe said he is sure it would not.

He said Toyosu will soon become known on the sightseeing trail, with Tsukiji’s attractions of early-morning auction viewing and sushi for breakfast remaining unchanged.

Masuzoe’s plan to create a more “enjoyable” Tokyo is not limited to polishing its tourism attractions. He is equally concerned about a growing problem for Tokyo residents — the widening gap between rich and poor.

“Take child poverty, for example. If parents are struggling financially, that affects the life of their children; that’s not an enjoyable society,” Masuzoe said.

“Between big companies and small and mid-sized businesses, between permanent workers and temporary employees … I’m concerned about the widening gap, and Tokyo will take measures.”

In December, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government urged companies in Tokyo to upgrade temporary workers into regular employees and provide better salaries and welfare for those who want to retain fixed-term contracts.

Since last April, Tokyo has been providing subsidies of up to ¥500,000 per person if employers switch their staff from temporary status to permanent.

Meanwhile, Masuzoe touched on high-profile missteps last year that reflected poorly on the nation’s preparations for the Olympics. He blamed a lack of transparency in the selection process for construction of a new National Stadium and the official Olympic logo.

Last July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped a costly stadium design by international architect Zaha Hadid amid an outcry over snowballing costs. And last September the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee abandoned the official emblem after a claim of plagiarism.

“What is essential is the feeling that each person is involved, with the information shared openly,” Masuzoe said. “Taking such an approach usually requires more time, but there must be a sense of involvement” to alleviate suspicions of opaque decision-making.

A new design for the National Stadium, by architect Kengo Kuma, was adopted last month after a shortlist of two proposals was given a public airing. There have been 14,599 proposals for the new Olympic logo, and the winner will be announced this spring.

In both cases, involving the public helped to ease discontent.

“If people feel they are actually a part of the project they are more likely to be satisfied with the final result,” Masuzoe said, adding that the government should continue to maintain transparency so people can feel they are taking part in the preparations for the Olympics.