New Tokyo fish market to open in October 2018: council

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

A council set up by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and businesses said Wednesday a new site to replace the famed Tsukiji fish market will open in the Toyosu waterfront area on Oct. 11, 2018.

“We believe the schedule will give us enough time to prepare for a smooth relocation,” a council spokesperson told reporters.

The market in Tsukiji was originally scheduled to be moved to the new location in Tokyo’s Koto Ward last November. But Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who took office that August, put the brakes on the project due to concerns about toxic chemicals at the new site, which was previously used as a gas production plant.

Concerns grew as buildings at the new location were found to have been built on hollow concrete chambers instead of a thick layer of clean soil, which was supposed to have been done to counter contamination.

Toxic chemicals, including benzene, well exceeding the government-set limit for drinking water, were detected in groundwater at the site.

The local government has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the new facility.

Until now, the metropolitan government, the local ward and businesses had found it difficult to set a date to open the facility due to conflicting views on the project.

The metropolitan government aims to designate a contractor for the remaining construction work, with the aim of completing all work by the end of July next year.

Eight tenders have been accepted out of nine for additional safety construction work to address the pollution concerns.

Tsukiji’s wholesalers have voiced frustration over the delay, arguing that postponing the move was costing them millions of dollars a month.

Lengthy negotiations also raised fears about a possible delay in the plan to use the Tsukiji site as a transport hub for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

In June, Koike also unveiled a project with the aim of redeveloping the Tsukiji fish market site into a food theme park. But the measure may face opposition as the operator of a tourist facility to be set up at the Toyosu site has threatened to withdraw if it is likely to be unprofitable due to competition with the redeveloped Tsukiji site.

The market, which opened in 1935 and has fed the nation’s hunger for fresh seafood ever since, is best known for its pre-dawn daily auctions of tuna caught from all corners of the globe’s oceans.