After delaying Tsukiji’s relocation last year, and much deliberation since, Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, decided on Tuesday to finally relocate Tsukiji market to the originally proposed Toyosu area … to an extent. Koike proposes to use both the Tsukiji and Toyosu sites together, with the new site working as the primary wholesale and distribution area, while the current location will be redeveloped over the coming five years to “maintain its cultural legacy.” Although Koike has not specified when the relocation will occur, she did mention some sellers will be able to return to Tsukiji (others will remain in Toyosu) when renovations are complete. Tsukiji will also be home to a new culinary-inspired theme park.
The decision to use both sites has been met with protests from various sides, including Tokyo Olympic organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori, who argues that the development of the tunnel planned under the current Tsukiji market has already been delayed and will further affect planned routes from athlete villages to Olympic venues. Wholesalers have also complained that holding off the relocation is costing them millions of yen per month. Yet others are concerned that Koike hasn’t officially declared the new Toyosu site as safe, raising fears that contamination may still be an issue.
Tsukiji market has over 80 years of history in its current location and is a huge tourist draw for visitors to Tokyo, with about 42,000 people stopping by the venue daily. But because of its age, it desperately needs updates to refrigeration and freezing equipment, as well as earthquake proofing.
Plans to relocate from Tsukiji to Toyosu in November of 2016 were put on hold as high levels of toxic materials like benzene were found on the Toyosu site. Contractors had not filled the underground area with soil to protect against potential contamination from the Tokyo Gas plant that had previously occupied the site. Concerns regarding Toyosu’s safety have been paramount as Koike called for further investigations over the past months, but there is yet to be any official explanation on how these concerns will be addressed.
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