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Yuriko Koike. (Photo: WOF)

Tsukiji market relocation uncertainty raises controversies

Click on the flag for more information about Japan JAPAN
Thursday, November 10, 2016, 23:10 (GMT + 9)

The future of the world’s biggest fish market, Tsukiji Market, is experiencing uncertain times after Tokyo’s new governor, Yuriko Koike, put a halt to the relocation plans over concerns about dangerous toxins contaminating the new site.

The plan consisted in moving the sprawling collection of warehouses, restaurants and shops forming part of this central wholesale market with a commercial operation worth almost JPY 2 billion (USD 19 million) a day to new premises in Toyosu, less than two miles south along Tokyo Bay.

Koike criticised the way her predecessors had managed the move and said she would wait until the results of the new environmental survey are released in January before taking a final decision.

“Postponing the move puts the citizens of Tokyo first,” Koike told reporters when she announced the postponement.

Despite the uncertainties, activities must continue at the market covering 223,000 square metres and handling more than 400 varieties of seafood a day with a combined weight of 1,800 tonnes, The Guardian reported.

In statements to the British newspaper, some market wholesalers claimed that “harmful rumours” about the contamination are spreading around the world and that safety and reassurance are the two most important factors in their relationship with customers. They compared this situation to the one that took place at Fukushima and insisted that “rumours can destroy businesses.”

“Tsukiji only prospers because of its brand, and that brand is based on the absolute guarantee that our produce is safe to eat. Take that away, and the trust  evaporates,” one of the market wholesalers pointed out.

For his part, Makoto Nakazawa, a senior official with the Tsukiji market branch of the national confederation of trade unions, said: “The Tokyo government tried to force the move through by lying to us about its decontamination measures. It insisted the site had been cleaned up properly, but it turns out that it wasn’t.”

Nakazawa recalled that a poll of Tsukiji wholesalers conducted in April revealed overwhelming opposition to moving to Toyosu. Among the 247 who responded, 205 said they wanted to stay in Tsukiji; only nine said they wanted to relocate.

On the other hand, some experts say the slightly raised levels of toxic substances do not present a risk to human health.

In this regard, Kohei Urano, a professor emeritus of environmental safety at Yokohama National University, told the Asahi Shimbun: “As people do not drink the groundwater or wash fish with it, there will be no problem, even if the [pollutant] concentrations exceeded environmental standards.”

Meanwhile, Robbie Swinnerton, a food writer for the Japan Times stressed that the move would destroy the Tsukiji identity, one that is known globally and which has become a symbol of Japan’s traditional food culture.

Related articles:

- Toxic chemical detection delays Tsukiji fish market relocation
- Tsukiji fish market relocation postponed


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