Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday he is not the only one to blame for the problems dogging the relocation plan for the famed Tsukiji fish market.
At a closely watched news conference at the Japan National Press Club, the outspoken nationalist pointed a finger at the metropolitan bureaucracy, claiming he only contributed to the fiasco by rubber-stamping the land transactions and casting blame for the problems on his trusted deputies.
Ishihara, 84, also kicked off a blame game with Gov. Yuriko Koike, saying her stalling on the project caused financial losses for wholesalers at Tsukiji who are now unable to use the new facilities built on the polluted replacement site, which is in the Toyosu district bordering Tokyo Bay in Koto Ward.
Ishihara said the transactions for acquiring the land in Toyosu, which have been criticized as improper because they were allegedly made behind closed doors, were handled by former Deputy Gov. Takeo Hamauzu.
Ishihara said he approved the new site and the price tag believing that the decisions made by the negotiators and experts appointed by the metro assembly were appropriate.
“I’m not a specialist in those areas . . . and let my subordinates make those decisions,” he said referring to former deputy Akio Maekawa and his successor Hamauzu. “I only put on the seals as a chief executive.”
“I believe the metropolitan government as a whole bears the responsibility,” he said, stressing that the site had been selected before he became governor in 1999 and that the decisions had also been approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
“I wasn’t involved in the negotiations for the purchase of the land,” he said, repeating his earlier claims.
The market was set to open at the new Toyosu site 2 km south of Tsukiji in November, but Gov. Koike postponed the move in late August after learning of environmental concerns.
Koike has called Ishihara’s handling of the project into question, as he was governor when the decisions on the purchase of contaminated land from Tokyo Gas Co. were made and when the relocation project was finalized.
Ishihara is set to be summoned over the project on March 20 as a sworn witness before a powerful metropolitan assembly committee to determine whether he bears responsibility for mishandling the land acquisition process.
Ishihara also faces a civil lawsuit filed in 2012 by a group of Tokyoites who claim the process of selecting and purchasing the land were illegal because he did not include the cost of decontamination.
The group is demanding that the metropolitan government seek ¥57.8 million in compensation from Ishihara, the same amount it paid Tokyo Gas and other organizations for the land in 2011.
“I might have received overall interim reports,” he said, adding that he could not remember the details of the deal and denying that he ignored the fact the site was contaminated with toxic chemicals.
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