The end of an era has finally come for the world’s oldest, biggest — and arguably most famous — fish market.
On Oct. 6, Japan’s Tsukiji fish market began the move from its current spot near the upmarket Tokyo shopping area of Ginza to a location that used to house a gasworks close to Tokyo Bay, a move that had been under discussion since 2001. The new market opened its doors on Oct. 11.
On a typical day, about 1,628 tons of seafood passed through Tsukiji, with a value of about 1.6 billion yen (US$14 million). The bustling inner-city market carried about 480 types of seafood and 270 types of other produce.
The history of the Tsukiji area could be traced back to 1657, when the government reclaimed land along Tokyo Bay and named it “Tsukiji” — literally translated as “constructed land.” In 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed much of central Tokyo, along with the Nihonbashi fish market. In 1935 the market was relocated to its recent site near Ginza, where it transformed the Tsukiji area into a bustling town.
The market was one of the top tourist destinations in Tokyo, attracting as many as 42,000 visitors a day. Each year the symbolic New Year auction often attracted media attention, as buyers battled to outbid each other. Bidders used hand signals to dictate their price, with the fish usually selling within seconds.
Kiyomura Corp., whose owner Kiyoshi Kimura runs the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain, was frequently the highest bidder. The most expensive tuna sold at the market went to Kiyomura in 2013 for 155.4 million yen (US$1.36 million).
In August 2017, a fire broke out at Tsukiji, burning for 15 hours before it was extinguished, according to media reports. Safety concerns were cited as a key reason to push through the move to a new location.
Moving the market proved no easy task. Tokyo Metropolitan Government first decided on the relocation to Tokyo Bay in 2001, but concerns over tainted soil at the new site and the cost of the move led to more than a decade and a half of delays.
Tsukiji wasn’t just a place to buy fish. The outer market shops and vendors sold everything from dried foods to kitchenware. Visitors wandered in search of soba and ramen noodle restaurants, and could satisfy a sweet tooth with Japanese confectionery.
Not everyone was happy about the move to Toyosu. While some shop owners decided to relocate to the new site, others chose to close down.
1. seafood n.
(hai2 chan3; hai3 xian1)
2. bustling adj.
熱鬧的 (re4 nao4 de5)
3. reclaim v.
(tian2 hai3 zao4 di4; kai1 ken3)
4. tourist destination phr.
旅遊景點 (lu3 you2 jing2 dian3)
5. auction n.
拍賣會 (pai1 mai4 hui4)
6. relocation n.
搬遷 (ban1 qian1)
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