Tokyo’s huge and hugely popular Tsukiji fish market will not be destroyed, but is to be closed for up to five years while it is modernized and turned into a “food theme park,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Tuesday.
The market is to move to a state-of-the-art ￥600 billion (US$6 billion) facility in Toyosu on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo while Tsukiji is rebuilt.
After that, Tokyo will have two wholesale fish markets, Koike said.
The governor had halted the planned move to Toyosu in August last year, just months before the new market’s scheduled opening, after food safety concerns were raised. Toxins have been found in soil and groundwater at Toyosu, which was previously the site of a gas plant.
The initial plan was to sell the bayside Tsukiji property after the move, possibly for a shopping mall or casino.
However, Koike said she is opposed to such a one-time cash gain for the capital.
Tsukiji is a valuable brand and landmark, she said at a news conference.
“Our country has always valued tradition,” Koike said.
Koike declined to give an exact timeline, saying she was just announcing a basic plan that still requires approval by the city legislature.
Toyosu would also need to be cleaned to ensure its water systems and soil meet safety standards. The city faces a challenge in calming public fears about the toxins at Toyosu, which have drawn widespread media coverage.
The massive new complex, loaded with huge refrigeration units, would be expensive to maintain.
Meanwhile, Tsukiji, famous the world over for its tuna auctions and quaint sushi joints, has hobbled along and is still busy with tourists.
Koike said she wants to turn Tsukiji into a “food theme park,” rebuilding its antiquated buildings and adding the latest earthquake-resistant technology.
She believes Toyosu’s high-tech distribution systems and its proximity to airports would help make it a bustling market that can coexist with Tsukiji.
Some are skeptical.
Hiroyuki Doko, proprietor of Doko Shoten, a wholesale seafood store in Tsukiji, questioned whether businesses would be able to make the same profit in Koike’s theme-park plan.
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