• Kyodo, Bloomberg


Fishery wholesalers voiced concern about the future of the Tsukiji market, saying Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s plan announced Tuesday is unclear about redevelopment efforts at the current site after the fish market’s operations are relocated to the nearby Toyosu site.

“Only a broad plan has been revealed without specifics,” Hiroyasu Ito, head of the association of fisheries wholesalers in Tokyo, told a news conference. “I am worried because I can’t grasp what the governor thinks about the future of the Tsukiji market.”

He also said it is difficult to grasp the governor’s idea of having market operations take place at both sites, noting that “two markets cannot work in parallel.”

“A market works when all wholesalers and intermediate wholesalers come together in one place,” he said.

After becoming governor last August, Koike put the relocation plan for the wholesale food market on hold after being told that the pollution control measures promised to the public over a decade ago had been skipped and that the former gas plant site was rife with carcinogens.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Koike did not specify when the relocation will take place or how much the new plan would cost, merely announcing a “basic policy.”

Mikio Izumi, head of a group comprising the fruit and vegetable industries, called on the governor to provide “concrete measures” to prevent damage to the reputation of the market, including a declaration of safety” for the new site.

Izumi also called on the metropolitan government to act in a way to prevent the fruit and vegetable industries from being divided by the plan.

Yutaka Hayama, head of Wholesales Co-Operative of Tokyo Fish Market, the largest such cooperative at the Tsukiji market, said he was not ready to explain the group’s position at this time because the governor’s plan came out of the blue.

The current market is also one of the top tourist destinations in Tokyo, attracting as many as 42,000 visitors a day. The move would greatly impact not only the market as a place to visit but also as a world-class hub for fish sales, according to Ted Bestor, professor of social anthropology at Harvard University and author of “Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World.”

“You can’t duplicate something of that magnitude,” Bestor said in an interview in Tokyo. “The Tokyo government may have destroyed a brand name of enormous value.”

About 1,628 tons (3.6 million pounds) of seafood worth about ¥1.6 billion pass through the market on a typical day, according to a government pamphlet. Tsukiji handles about 480 types of seafood and 270 types of produce. Yet the number of stalls has already been declining and Toyosu’s inconvenient location may prompt some wholesalers to close their doors rather than move there, according to Bestor.

Koike’s decision affects other areas as well.

On Tuesday, Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori warned of potential dire consequences to the transport operations of the 2020 Games.

Mori hit out at Koike’s long drawn-out decision, saying the delay in moving the market will almost certainly impact transport projects for the Tokyo Games, namely the No. 2 ring road that will connect the Olympic Park and the Olympic village with the International Olympic Committee hotels.

The road — part of which was supposed to pass through a tunnel beneath Tsukiji, which should have already been vacated per the initial plan — is to be designated an Olympic lane during the games.

Mori said the governor needed to make the call on the market by March for the tunnel to be built on time. While Koike on Tuesday said the road will be completed, the governor did not say how — now without the option of the tunnel.

“This matter is the biggest problem we face at the organizing committee right now, and are discussing how we can solve it,” a visibly frustrated Mori said.

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