Tsukiji move a contentious matter
By Chris Loew, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Osaka, Japan
19 April, 2012
Chuo Ward officials have asked the Tokyo metropolitan government to rent it some city-owned facilities around the Tsukiji wholesale market, such as the parking lot and refrigeration warehouse, immediately after the market’s planned move to Toyosu.
They plan to use some ward-owned land adjacent to the Tsukji market to house an agglomeration of seafood restaurants that could keep up tourist foot traffic in the area. Tokyo metropolitan government officials have said they are willing to cooperate with the ward in its urban development plan since it has acquiesced to the relocation.
A ward, or “ku” in Japanese, equates to a neighborhood. But in Tokyo, where the metropolitan and prefectural governments are merged, the ward has some governmental and planning authority, akin to the boroughs of New York City.
The Tokyo prefectural assembly, on 27 March, approved the fiscal year budget, including money for relocation of the Central Wholesale Market from Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, to polluted land in Toyoso, Koto-ku, by 2014.
The plan gradually gained support from major wholesale market traders and assembly members after the April 2011 re-election of Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an independent who supports the move. The Communist party and consumer unions have been using the issue as a rallying point. The Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the Tokyo assembly (as well as the lower house of the national legislature), had also opposed it but reversed position and even punished some members who voted against the budget bill.
Chuo Ward officials had long argued for keeping the fish market at its present site in Tsukiji. However, they accepted the move after the Tokyo metropolitan government passed the budget.
In shifting their support if favor of the move, the major dealers and chain-store buyers, as well as the leaders of the market, have split from the smaller dealers and peripheral businesses like restaurants, which are opposed. Bigger dealers want the spacious and modern facilities that the new site promises, such as expanded refrigeration and better truck access. Small distributors and shops will lose out because they benefit from the current proximity to restaurant customers and the retail public. With the Central Wholesale Market gone, owners of Outer Market outlets fear that their businesses will fail.
A huge amount of money will be required to clean the soil of benzene and arsenic at the former location of a Tokyo Gas coal gasification plant by washing or heating, and there is concern about the effectiveness of the methods, as data has not been transparently released. However, the site would have to be cleaned at some point anyway.
Food safety at the new site is not the only issue — opponents have also grasped at the issues of soil liquefaction in the event of earthquake on this land reclaimed from the sea, and the high cost to taxpayers.
But the real point of contention is that the city would like to redevelop this highly valuable land in the heart of Tokyo, while the small traders who benefit greatly from its prime location are afraid to lose this advantage and want to be compensated. Do the traders have a right, by long use, to an advantageous location at a discount price? Or, since the prefecture owns the land, can it move the market at will?
19 April, 2012