Oct 5, 2018

After 83 years, fish traders are forced to bid farewell to Tsukiji market, the seafood marketplace in the heart of Tokyo that’s become home to many of them. Through the years, the market has gained prominence for being the largest seafood market in the world, with regular buyers being high-profile Michelin-star restaurants. Tourists frequently flock the market to see the fishes being sold.

Vendors at the Tsukiji inner wholesale market

Despite the fame, the Tokyo government has long been trying to relocate the fishmongers, deeming the market too small, unsafe, and unsanitary to continue housing them. Now, the government has finalized their plans to move the market from Tsukiji to a new $5 billion market in Toyosu, a couple kilometers east of where the market currently sits. The move only applies to Tsukiji’s inner wholesale market, where licensed vendors auction out their fishes. The outer retail market, the posher area with many restaurants and popular establishments, will remain in place.

The move was originally scheduled for 2016, but concerns over the toxicity of the new site’s soil delayed the plans.

More than 80 percent of the vendors oppose the move, with some of them even suing the Tokyo government over it. Many of the fishmongers are also Tsukiji residents, and they are concerned that their customers will not follow them. A rally was staged on Sept. 29 to protest the move.

Vendors protesting the move

The metropolitan authority should do well to listen to their vendors. In places everywhere, the local market is a city’s permanent fixture where vendors are rooted in place. Disrupting that has major effects not just on the vendors, but oftentimes also on the city itself.

Unless the government listens to the protestors or any major concerns arise, the Tsukiji market will formally close on Oct. 6. Taking its place, Toyosu market will open on Oct. 11. The inner Tsukiji market will be torn down and used as a travel hub for the 2020 Olympics, though the market’s future beyond that remains murky.

Photos courtesy of Issei Kato of Reuters’ The Wider Image.

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TAGS: japan seafood market Tokyo Toyosu market Tsukiji market