Some­thing fishy in

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space - Ja­pan

JUST a short walk from some of Tokyo’s choic­est ad­dresses, the smell of fish per­me­ates the air. But not for long, if the Gov­ern­ment gets its way. In one of the most jar­ring scenes in Tokyo, fish­mon­gers carry bas­kets loaded with their fresh pun­gent catch at Tsuk­iji mar­ket, min­utes away from the glitz of the Ginza dis­trict packed with lux­ury shops and cor­po­rate head­quar­ters.

The world’s largest fish mar­ket, which pro­duces fresh sushi and sashimi flown daily to top restau­rants the world over, has been in Tsuk­iji for seven decades, long top­ping must- see lists for first- time vis­i­tors to Tokyo.

But Gov­er­nor Shin­taro Ishi­hara, re­elected in April with an over­whelm­ing man­date, is set on evict­ing Tsuk­iji, where fish­mon­gers rub shoul­ders with busi­ness com­muters at the sub­way stop.

Ishi­hara, an out­spo­ken na­tion­al­ist known for his po­lit­i­cal de­ter­mi­na­tion, be­lieves the mar­ket is an anachro­nism and wants to send the fish­mon­gers pack­ing by 2012 to a new wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment in Toyosu, a few kilo­me­tres away. He be­lieves the land in cramped cen­tral Tokyo could be bet­ter used. He has pro­posed mak­ing the for­mer fish mar­ket the main me­dia cen­tre for a po­ten­tial 2016 Tokyo sum­mer Olympics, the Gov­er­nor’s pet project.

‘‘ The site is nar­row, dan­ger­ous, not re­ally clean, and as­bestos is used in var­i­ous spots in the fa­cil­i­ties, al­though they are sealed up,’’ Ishi­hara says.

‘‘ What hap­pens if a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter oc­curs and as­bestos scat­ters in the air? We have to deal with this is­sue.’’

But fish­mon­gers are up in arms, say­ing that even if the new lo­ca­tion is cleaner and more spa­cious, the move strikes at the heart of cul­ture in the land of sushi.

‘‘ The re­lo­ca­tion could de­stroy culi­nary cul­ture as small mid­dle­men may be forced out of the mar­ket,’’ says Makoto

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