Last orders as Tokyo’s Tsuk­iji tuna mar­ket re­lo­cates

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE -

FOR decades, Tokyo’s Tsuk­iji mar­ket has been the beat­ing heart of a world-class culi­nary cap­i­tal, sup­ply­ing Miche­lin­starred chefs and draw­ing tourists who queue for hours to glimpse pre-dawn tuna auc­tions.

But this week it will fi­nally shut its doors and relocate from its di­lap­i­dated but cen­tral lo­ca­tion to a new site in eastern Tokyo, af­ter a lengthy and con­tro­ver­sial process, hin­dered by pol­lu­tion rows and con­struc­tion de­lays.

Traders will sell their last wares at Tsuk­iji’s in­ner mar­ket on Oc­to­ber 6, shut­ting up shop af­ter one fi­nal tuna auc­tion.

The mam­moth move will be­gin the fol­low­ing day, with ven­dors ex­pected to file out of the mar­ket in a mass ex­o­dus to the new site, where op­er­a­tions start on Oc­to­ber 11.

The re­lo­ca­tion has been in the works for decades, driven in part by the run­down quar­ters where ven­dors sell 480 dif­fer­ent types of seafood worth $14 mil­lion each day.

This sum­mer, a heat­wave vir­tu­ally over­whelmed the mar­ket’s out­dated air con­di­tion­ing, forc­ing whole­salers to keep pricey pro­duce in cool trucks un­til mo­ments be­fore auc­tion.

The mar­ket’s new lo­ca­tion in Toyosu prom­ises state-of-theart fa­cil­i­ties. Special doors will help keep halls cool and ster­ile, while gaw­ping tourists will be con­fined to a view­ing gallery be­hind glass.

For some ven­dors, the changes will be a wel­come im­prove­ment from con­di­tions at Tsuk­iji, where throngs of vis­i­tors in­ter­fer­ing with the ac­tual busi­ness of the mar­ket have irked whole­salers.

But the move also has its de­trac­tors, with con­cerns about ev­ery­thing from Toyosu’s lo­ca­tion, far from clients, to pol­lu­tion at the new site.

Protests against move

Tokyo Gover­nor Yuriko Koike, who has cham­pi­oned the move, has been forced to re­peat­edly de­fend Toyosu af­ter the dis­cov­ery of soil con­tam­i­na­tion on the site, for­merly home to a gas plant.

Of­fi­cials say the pol­lu­tion has been reme­died but not ev­ery­one is con­vinced.

In the weeks be­fore the move, hun­dreds of pro­tes­tors demon­strated against the re­lo­ca­tion, and le­gal chal­lenges have been filed.

“The new site at Toyosu is not suit­able for whole­salers. There are go­ing to be a lot of prob­lems,” said lawyer Kenji Ut­sunomiya.

Asunaro Sue­take, an­other pro­tes­tor, said it was “strange to move the world’s big­gest fish mar­ket to a pol­luted site, es­pe­cially when the ma­jor­ity of fish­mon­gers are op­posed”.

Opened in 1935, Tsuk­iji is walk­ing dis­tance from the swanky Ginza dis­trict where some of Tokyo’s most famed restau­rants are lo­cated.

The prox­im­ity has cre­ated a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween ven­dors and fiercely ex­act­ing chefs seek­ing top qual­ity prod­ucts for restau­rants some­times boast­ing mul­ti­ple Miche­lin stars.

Fish­mon­gers fear they may lose clients with the move to the less ac­ces­si­ble new site.

The re­lo­ca­tion will also be some­thing of a blow to tour- ists, who of­ten lined up for hours to se­cure one of just 120 spots to view Tsuk­iji’s predawn tuna auc­tion.

‘End of an era’

Each New Year’s Day, high­pro­file buy­ers vied to pay hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for the top tuna at the first auc­tion of the year.

At Tsuk­iji’s last New Year’s sale, one buyer put down $320,000, still far short of the record $1.8 mil­lion paid for a bluefin in 2013.

The so-called outer mar­ket at Tsuk­iji – brick-and-mor­tar shops sell­ing ev­ery­thing from seaweed to cof­fee – will re­main af­ter the move.

But the ware­houses that housed ven­dors and ad­di­tional shops and restau­rants are ex­pected to be lev­elled to make way, ini­tially, for a trans­port de­pot for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Be­yond that, the site’s fu­ture is more un­cer­tain, though Koike has sug­gested it could be trans­formed into a kind of culi­nary theme park, com­mem­o­rat­ing the mar­ket’s colour­ful his­tory.

Yukari Sakamoto, au­thor of Food Sake Tokyo, who has run tours of Tsuk­iji for over 10 years, said prob­lems with the new site had left ven­dors frus­trated.

“They all agree that the cur­rent site needs to be up­graded. But... they should have re­built on the cur­rent lo­ca­tion,” she told AFP.

With the move just days away, “you do feel that sad­ness” in the mar­ket, she said.

“You’re think­ing ‘oh wow, this is the end of an era’. It’s just so dis­ap­point­ing that it’s not end­ing on a pos­i­tive note.” AFP

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