National

Tokyo to launch tours of Toyosu market to dispel food contamination fears

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will start holding regular tours of the new Central Wholesale Market in Toyosu this month, hoping to dispel safety fears as it tries to address the pollution threatening the replacement site for the famed Tsukiji fish market.

The metro government will also start disclosing information on harmful substances in the air and groundwater at the market in Koto Ward this month through its website and social media accounts.

“Our main goal is to enable Tokyoites to have a look at the Toyosu market and to check the conditions with their own eyes,” said Makoto Migo, the metro official in charge of Tokyo’s markets. He said the initiative is aimed at restoring public confidence in the new market’s safety.

The Toyosu market was initially scheduled to replace the famed Tsukiji fish market in Chuo Ward on Nov. 7. But Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike postponed the relocation in August last year after learning that safety measures promised to the public years ago to deal with carcinogens in the soil like benzene and arsenic had been skipped.

The metro government has since ordered additional measures to ease the public’s concerns, including thicker concrete in the basement floors of the main buildings to prevent toxins in the soil from entering and contaminating the air.

Last month, Koike said the Tsukiji market would move to Toyosu no earlier than next June, after taking additional measures to address the soil contamination.

The information disclosures will include data on benzene in air both at the premises and at other places in Tokyo for comparison purposes.

In February and April, benzene up to 100 times the legal limit was found in samples of groundwater from the Toyosu site, according to the metro government.

“We informed residents of the condition on our website . . . but the information was hard to find,” Migo said. “We want to make it more accessible.”

The first tour at Toyosu will take place on Sept. 30 and accommodate 120 visitors. Those interested in attending are invited to apply via the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market website (www.shijou.metro.tokyo.jp) between Sept. 15 and 21.

Visitors will be shown areas such as where the world famous tuna auctions will take place and the underground water control system, which is supposed to monitor water levels and pump any excess into the sewage system.

Although the tour will be conducted in Japanese, Migo said that images and photographs to familiarize visitors with the new market will be accompanied by explanations in English, enabling more foreign visitors to attend the tours.

From June to August, the metro government conducted three tours on a trial basis, which attracted hundreds of people.

“Given the number of applications we received, which was 15 times higher than the limit, we believe that many people have an interest” in the fate and condition of the Toyosu market, Migo said.

The officials plan to organize regular tours once a month on weekends or, if the need arises, twice a month.

The metro government also plans to create a route for tours to be held once the wholesalers start operation at the new site, Migo added.