Tsukiji Fish Market’s Relocation Suddenly Delayed

News & Views - August 31st, 2016

Tokyo has been preparing for the famed fish market’s relocation for years already, but newly elected governor Yuriko Koike has surprised everyone by announcing her plans to postpone the move, which was scheduled for early November, due to pollution concerns.

After Koike’s landslide victory on July 31, Tokyo’s first female governor is already making her presence felt. As she promised during her election campaign, Koike is rethinking the relocation plan, and is likely to delay the move at least until February 2017 when the new site’s final groundwater survey is complete. “With respect to whether the relocation should be conducted according to the fixed schedule, I have a responsibility to comprehensively examine all aspects before making the final decision. There are many factors to consider,” she has said.

Her concerns are valid: the new Toyosu site in Koto ward was previously home to a Tokyo Gas Co. plant, which produced harmful waste chemicals. In 2008, the government discovered heavy soil contamination at the site, and has since spent more than 50 billion yen on cleaning it up by removing two meters of topsoil. However, the results are still being monitored, and final results are only expected to be available by February. “When it comes to food, it has always been my position that safety for consumers and workers must come first,” Koike told “The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).”

Koike has also expressed concerns over preserving the fish market’s legacy, telling WSJ: “I really feel deeply that people have no delicacy when they barbarously destroy these treasures that everyone values.” However, it’s unlikely she will halt the move entirely as this would cost the city dearly – and this would be over and above the 588 billion yen that’s already been spent on the relocation.

Even delaying the process by three months has far-reaching consequences. For one, it means that construction of a new highway – which is set to be built at the old site in preparation for the 2020 Olympics – will also be delayed. The new arterial road, called Loop Road No. 2, cannot be built until Tsukiji fish market has been demolished. Hiroyasu Ito, chairman of the Tsukiji Market Association, has also expressed concerns, saying: “If the opening is delayed, we will be forced to reconsider our plans concerning the relocation in our busy period, including the year-end and New Year holidays. As a result, we will have to shoulder economic burdens.”

Koike has promised to hold a press conference soon in which she will confirm her decision and “explain the reasons in detail.”