Smelling something fishy, Koike puts Tsukiji move on ice

by

Staff Writer

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Wednesday suspended the relocation of Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market, saying she may order a root-and-branch review of the move.

The famously messy but colorful market was due to close a few weeks from now and reopen in spanking new surroundings at a custom-built facility in Toyosu in Koto Ward on Nov. 7.

At a news conference, Koike said three worries forced her into the decision: noxious chemicals in the ground at the new site, ballooning construction costs and a general failure to keep the city’s residents in the loop.

She said halting the move “puts the interests of Tokyo residents first.”

“I won’t accept earlier decisions without questioning them merely because they have already been established,” she said. “My policy is based on the interest of Tokyo residents.”

Koike was elected governor on July 31 after running as an outside candidate not endorsed by a major party.

She said construction costs for the fish market have ballooned to ¥588.4 billion from the 2011 estimate of ¥392.6 billion and wants to know why. She also announced the launch of a team of experts to look into the issues of pollution, cost and information-sharing.

She said the construction costs work out to ¥2.2 million per tsubo (about 3.31 sq. meters), whereas the regular market price for work of this kind is ¥0.5 million to ¥0.6 million per tsubo.

Asked if she might cancel the move outright, Koike implied that she is taking no options off the table.

“I will just wait for a report from the project team,” she said.

A 2001 survey by Tokyo Gas Co., which used to operate a plant at the site, found high levels of toxins in the soil. The metropolitan government has spent over ¥50 billion cleaning it up and now maintains the pollution is either reduced or

contained in such a way that makes it unlikely to pose health problems for market workers or consumers.

The metropolitan government has sampled ground water seven times over the past two years. In each test, toxins were found to be lower than the legal limit. A final survey is to be conducted in November, with the results released in January.

Koike said she will make the final decision after she sees those results.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the current facilities at Tsukiji has been suspended.

At Tsukiji, about 1,676 tons of seafood worth ¥1.61 billion and more than 1,000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables are handled daily, according to a 2014 estimate.

The governor said wholesalers and workers will be consulted if the plan is revised.

“Opinions are split over the relocation and reopening of the market on Nov. 7,” she said.

Koike said she would also monitor the condition of the current location, where sanitary issues and aging facilities present impediments to trade.