National

Tokyo's Toyosu market opens doors to eager public

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

The Toyosu wholesale food market opened its doors to the public for the first time Saturday, allowing tourists to wander the massive complex, browse exhibits and dine at some of the famous restaurants that relocated from the Tsukiji district last week.

Many were impressed by the scale and cleanliness of the brand-new concrete facilities.

“Toyosu market is really clean, and I think that’s good” for the market, said 26-year-old Ryo Takahashi, who was visiting with his wife.

He added that he didn’t feel particularly sentimental about Tsukiji, given that it had merely moved over from adjacent Chuo Ward.

The new market sits in an enclosed structure and covers 40 hectares, 1.7 times the size of the old fish and vegetable market.

However, Jean-Sebastian Rogues, 31, who was visiting on holiday from France, was disappointed to hear tourists would not have access to the area where the wholesalers do business and close deals.

He was eager to experience the sights and smells of the Toyosu market after hearing it was one of the biggest fish and seafood markets in the world. Upon hearing that he wouldn’t be able to wander through the marketplace, however, he felt underwhelmed.

“We want to go inside, to see and smell” the fish, he said.

“It’s not a good idea” to deny visitors direct access to the market, he said, adding that he was “disappointed.”

Others showed understanding that separating the tourists from the fishmongers and produce sellers was necessary to ensure hygiene.

“Concerning the fish market itself, it’s a pity that you cannot see the processing of the fish anymore, but for hygiene reasons I think it’s better,” said Paul Swerts, 42, who was visiting from Belgium with a friend.

Nariko Eguchi, an office worker in her 50s, agreed.

Given that visitors won’t be able to be in the immediate vicinity anymore, “I would feel better about buying produce here at Toyosu as a customer,” she said, adding that “It’s great that it’s so hygienic.”

People formed hourlong lines to dine at the reopened restaurants.

Tetsuya Fukuda, vice president of the Fukumo sweets shop, said all 1,600 of its popular rice dumplings had sold out by noon, within two hours of the market’s 10 a.m. opening

Saori Kanno and her friend Luis Garcia, both in their 50s, were waiting in line for more than an hour in hopes of getting a taste of sushi.

“We decided to come here because today is the first day,” Kanno explained, acknowledging the market hadn’t developed any “special atmosphere” yet, though she hadn’t explored it thoroughly.

The Toyosu market succeeds Tsukiji, which was one of the most famous fish and seafood markets in the world. The state-of-the-art facility stands about 2 km southeast from the time-worn and rat-infested site in Chuo Ward.

The relocation of the market was in the works for years, before concerns over contamination arose over the site, which used to be an area where a gas plant stood.

After delaying the market’s relocation for two years, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike declared the new site safe in July.

The modern Toyosu facilities allow fresh produce to stay chilled with improved refrigeration compared to Tsukiji. Market workers also make use of a system designed to ensure the safety of the products that trade hands.

The market is divided into three large complexes with a range of restaurants, shops and exhibits.

Tourists, however, will not have direct access to the marketplace and will have to watch the action from behind a glass panel. The famous tuna auction will not be open to the public until January.

Visitors can dine at the same restaurants that were popular at Tsukiji, including Yoshinoya, the beef bowl chain that set up its first shop there, as well as get a taste of Tokyo’s freshest sushi.

Shopping areas that cater to professionals, selling anything from rubber boots and knives to seaweed and sake, are also open to the public.

And the turret trucks — the ubiquitous little rotating carts fishmongers use to transport their fish — will be on show along with displays detailing the fish that are in season and background information on the market.