Tsukiji Fish Market built in 1935, is the largest wholesaler of fish and seafood and is one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world of any kind. The market is in Tsukiji located between the Sumida River and Ginza. The outer wholesale market is filled with restaurants and attracts domestic and international people. The inner wholesale is closed off to the public and only licensed wholesalers can sell their goods. About 480 different types of fish and 270 types of fruit and vegetables are handled at the market on a daily basis. Now, the market is so much more, it is a cultural landmark.
Contamination at New Location Bears Anxiety
Moving the market to the new location is facing more problems than expected. A former governor of Tokyo Shintaro Isihihara, recommended many times that the market should be moved to Toyoso, Koto ward. The long-awaited move to the new location was planned to take place in November 2016. The original plan was to close on November 2nd and re-open on November 7th in Toyosu with a new site of 400,000 sq. meters of space. On August 31st, 2016 the Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike postponed the move.
Governor Koike is concerned about the soil contamination at the site. A decision is supposed to be reached by January after the groundwater test results are released. The area is heavily polluted from the previous company Tokyo Gas Co.. From 1956 to 1988 Tokyo Gas Co. operated a plant to manufacture household gas out of coal. The plant kept a large storage area of coal and that led to chemical waste such as benzene, lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, cyanogen. In 2008, the Tokyo government detected heavy soil contamination. More than 500 million dollars/5 billion yen has been spent to clean the new site by removing two meters of topsoil. Governor Koike commented it would be weird to open the new market without knowing whether or not the location was clean enough.
Hesitant to Move on
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government stated there are many concerns about the current Tsukiji market location such as sanitation, layout, and the old facilities. Eisuke Urawa is the director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Fisheries Wholesale Association and he also agreed it is time to move on. Urawa commented, “Buyers have to come to Tsukiji even if they don’t want to because that is where all of the products are, it has been working until now because of the Tsukiji brand. However, everyone knows the existing sanitation levels are poor and relocating the market to a new site will help improve this to industry-standard levels.”
The new area will be divided into three separate areas unlike the current open auctioning space. The market is planned to be closed off from the open air so that the temperature can be controlled. The closed structure will better control the traffic. There are hundreds of retailers to coordinate for the move and it is not straight-forward at all. Urawa is responsible for coordinating all existing vendors at Tsukiji and the metropolitan government. Urawa says many different simulations have been drawn up for the new space and infrastructure needs to be created. Vendors and related whole sellers are estimating that the new market will not be open until February or even May of next year.