• Kyodo

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Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s Tuesday announcement that the city plans to retain both the Tsukiji fish market and the planned relocation site in the Toyosu district sparked some pointed questions over how the capital will be able to fund the plan.

Koike said Tokyo will redevelop the Tsukiji site in five years, after moving the fish market to a designated site in the nearby Toyosu area as planned. The Tsukiji site will eventually be turned into a wholesale market with a culinary theme park so it could remain a tourist attraction.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had planned to sell the site in Tsukiji to cover the debt issued for construction of the Toyosu market. Koike said she will now consider how best to repay the debt.

“She probably thought that there wouldn’t be complaints if both sites are used but it’s unclear how much this will cost,” said Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Hakubun Shimomura on Tuesday.

Even an opposition party that has been supportive of Koike’s policies is skeptical of the plan.

“The people of Tokyo can’t accept the huge costs involved, and we’ll get that through to the governor in the assembly,” said Atsushi Saito, secretary-general of Tokyo Kaikaku Giindan, a party aligned with the Democratic Party in the Tokyo assembly.

Takagi said he agrees with the general direction of Koike’s plan, “although it’s a little hard to understand.”

Others are claiming that Koike’s decision is simply an attempt to play it safe before the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on July 2.

She scrambled to announce the plan before Friday’s kickoff of the election campaigning in which her party Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) is seeking to secure a majority in the 127-seat assembly through an alliance with Komeito and other political forces.

But her announcement drew a tepid response from fishery wholesalers in Tsukiji. One said the governor’s plan is “aimed at raising the expectations of wholesalers wishing to remain in Tsukiji. This is completely for the purpose of the election.”

Yoshihiro Katayama, a professor of political science at Waseda University, said Koike is focused on raising the approval ratings for her party.

“I have no choice but to describe the conclusion as ‘election first’ rather than Tokyoites first, ” said Katayama, former governor of Tottori Prefecture.

Upon assuming the governorship last August, Koike suspended the relocation plan as concerns emerged about pollution at the Toyosu site, which was previously occupied by a gas production plant. The Toyosu market was originally scheduled to open in November.

With the status of the market relocation in limbo, her party — poised to field many political newcomers for the assembly election — avoided making a clear stance on the issue, only saying it would “respect the governor’s position.”

Other parties have intensified their attacks against Tomin First, with members of the Liberal Democratic Party, which holds the largest number of seats in the assembly, calling her an “indecisive governor.”

In an interview with Kyodo News after the announcement Tuesday, Koike admitted her plan lacked detail, saying the metropolitan government would start considering the schedule going forward and calculating additional costs. The plan’s vagueness has raised doubts about its feasibility.

Koike said in a news conference Tuesday she has instructed Tokyo government officials to urgently come up with concrete steps based on the “basic policy” she outlined.

The governor worked out the plan to use both the Tsukiji and Toyosu markets with outside experts, keeping officials in charge of the market in the dark until just before her announcement.

Outside experts commissioned by the Tokyo government to study the market transfer had proposed to use both sites in a report released earlier this month.

It remains unclear how the metropolitan government would repay a debt of more than ¥300 billion ($2.7 billion) issued to construct the Toyosu market without selling the Tsukiji site as initially planned.

In an apparent move to dodge questions from reporters about details of the plan, Koike limited her new conference to half an hour citing her official duties, and answered questions from only three reporters.

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