Our company, Food Sake Tokyo, offers guided food lectures to markets in Tokyo. We are at Tsukiji Market usually four days a week, five if Tsukiji is open that Wednesday. Our business is very much based around Tsukiji Market so we are carefully watching the news and staying up-to-date with our friends who work in the market.
Following are updates as we know them, about Tsukiji Market’s move to the new Toyosu Market, which was scheduled to happen on November 7th, but now is on hold.
The current location, Tsukiji Market, is in dire needs up upgrades. Food safety standards have changed dramatically since 1935 when the market was originally built. It definitely needs to be upgraded.
*** Updated 6 October 2016
It is coming to light that part of the ground was not decontaminated. It is not the buildings, but a road that exists between two of the buildings. At first this area was not decontaminated as it is a road, and not considered a part of the Market area. At one point, it was brought up that this area would be used by the fishmongers and that it should be cleaned up, however, it could not be completely cleaned 100% due to physical restrictions (gas pipelines, beams, etc.).
A tunnel was constructed between the buildings so that turrets could move seafood from the auction to the wholesale market. Recently this area came up as highly contaminated with benzene at 710 times the allowable amount. Benzene was measured at 7.1 mg/liter when the safe amount in Japan is 0.01 mg/liter. Cyanogen was also found at 70 mg/liter.
In other news, Governor Koike has said that it is still unknown who approved the open air basement spaces underneath the buildings. She has said that they are still trying to find out who permitted this oversight and that these people may be held responsible.
*** Updated 23 September 2016
Governor Koike has returned from the Rio Paralympic Games and now her energy is focused on the Toyosu issue.
While she was gone, talk came up of other possible options for the market:
- Odaiba – which is in the relatively same area, however, it is very hard to access.
- Ota Shijo – home to Tokyo’s largest produce market. There is already a small market here for seafood and flowers as well. A good point of moving Tsukiji here is that it is next to Haneda airport, and a lot of the seafood coming into Tsukiji now comes by plane.
- Moving to Toyosu on a temporary basis. In the meantime, creating a brand new market in the current Tsukiji location and then moving back to Tsukiji.
What if the Toyosu Market is never used?
The buildings could be converted possibly into a casino or maybe used as storage for non-food items.
What if the market moves to Toyosu?
Some of the fishmongers at Tsukiji have said that their new space in Toyosu is very expensive. And, that it is inevitable that the prices will go up for seafood and passed along to the customers.
What about the water that was found in the new Toyosu site?
It is reported that some cyanide was found in the water below the Toyosu buildings.
Moving forward. What’s next?
Governor Koike has a team that will report to her at the end of September. At this point, it’s a waiting game.
*** Updated 20 September 2016
Water was found in the underground space under the new market. It was checked and while benzene was not found, it did have some arsenic, but permissible amounts.
Former Tokyo governor Ishihara is saying that he had no idea that the buildings would be built without the required 15 feet of dirt as recommended by specialists.
Current governor Koike is expected to have another press conference in the near future.
What to do with the Toyosu site, if Tsukiji doesn’t move there? Some are suggesting that the buildings be used for a casino. There is also talk of temporarily moving the market there and rebuilding on the current Tsukiji Market space, and then moving the market back to its current location.
Some super-freezers at the new Toyosu site have already been started up. These are not small plug-in machines, but giant buildings that go down to -76 degrees F (-60 degrees C). Once these have been turned on they can NOT be turned off without possibly doing damage to the buildings. These companies are now paying expensive electricity bills for empty super-freezers. The question is who should pay for this?
*** Updated 12 September 2016
Today in the news it came up that in 2007 a team of specialists recommended the clean dirt be put in over the contaminated dirt before construction of the buildings.
Then in 2008 it was decided to ignore the recommendations of the specialists and to construct the buildings directly over the contaminated dirt and to install thick cement floors and walls. However, this new plan was never run past the team of specialists, nor was it told to those at Tsukiji Market. Seems that it was a well kept secret between Tokyo government officials and the construction company. This is so disturbing, frustrating, and most of all, unbelievable.
What has come up today is that there is water in this pocket of space under the buildings. It was expected that there would not be any water in this space, which was supposed to be filled with clean dirt. The question today came up with where this water came from. Is it rain water or is it ground water? More importantly, is it polluted?
*** Updated 10 September 2016
Governor Koike held a press conference today (Saturday in Japan, so obviously urgent news) about a major oversight with the new Toyosu location.
As mentioned in the past, the new Toyosu Market location was priorly used by Tokyo Gas as a coal plant. The ground is polluted, which has been known from day one.
Part of the delay for the move, which was originally scheduled to happen in 2014, was because the topsoil was being dig up and decontaminated. The decontaminated soil was to be returned and then was to be covered by more dirt.
The photo above on the top left shows that the plan was to have 2 meters (6.6 feet) of decontaminated soil topped by 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) dirt. see photo bottom right
Today in the urgent press conference Governor Koike showed a photo of the current situation in one of the buildings. see photo upper right
The buildings were constructed without the required 4.5 meters of clean ground (about 15 feet). The photo shows a building with what looks like a basement. In fact, that basement is meant to be completely filled in with clean dirt.
This brings up many questions, starting with “Really?”
How unbelievable is this? Seriously. This process of decontaminating the dirt and putting it back and covered before construction of the buildings were to begin.
So, what next?
In today’s press conference Governor Koike said that her Project Team (see below) will continue to look into the Toyosu Market and will make their recommendations early next year.
For now, we can just stay tuned for news updates like today.
Original post follows:
Tsukiji Market’s scheduled move to Toyosu on November 7th came to a sudden halt yesterday. For our Food Sake Tokyo business this has ramifications as we do many tours each week to Tsukiji Market. Following is information that has been culled from the news the last few days and what I find interesting regarding the world’s largest fish market and its potential move from Tsukiji to Toyosu. Here are some interesting tidbits worth chewing on.
Tsukiji Market has been in operation since 1935. There is a wholesale seafood and a produce market at Tsukiji Market in the jōnai (inner market). Originally the jōnai was a market only for professional buyers and Shinji worked there as a buyer for a large retail and restaurant chain in Tokyo. There are roughly 800 shops in the inner market.
The inner market has become a popular tourist destination. In the past you could go in at anytime, including to observe the tuna auction. At one point the visitors to the tuna auction were intruding into the auction space, touching tuna, jumping on the moving turret vehicles and becoming a nuisance for the workers. So, Tsukiji now limits the number if visitors to the tuna auction to 120 per day. One must now go early in the morning to hopefully get one of the golden vests that will allow them into the tuna auction.
For those who still want to experience the wholesale seafood market they must now wait until 10 a.m. to see the shops selling tuna, frozen, fresh, and processed seafood, as well as the produce market.
So, why is the market even moving?
The current Tsukiji Inner Jōnai Market has been around since 1935. There are no walls in the market so animals such as cats, crows, seagulls, and yes, even mice are in the market. No walls also means that the market is not refrigerated. In the summertime the market can get upwards of 100 degrees. Seafood is kept on ice and there are superfreezers (-76 degrees F).
The market needs to be modernized and that is how the new Toyosu Market came into existence. The new facility is refrigerated and walls will keep out animals and tourists. Visitors to Toyosu will be able to observe the tuna auction, but from a second floor overlooking the auction. At least this is how we are told it will be.
What about the Outer Market? Is that also moving?
There are about another 600 shops in the outer market that sell knives, pantry staples like kombu and katsuobushi, and there are also many restaurants in the Tsukiji Jōgai Outer Market. The outer market ill NOT be moving to Toyosu.
What about the Tsukiji 築地 name?
The new market will be called Toyosu Shin Shijō 豊洲新市場, Toyosu New Market. The Tsukiji brand name will stay with the outer market shops which are not moving. Naturally, the outer market shop owners are concerned about their business in the future as some of their business comes from buyers going to the inner market.
On a side note, 60 of the inner market shops will be staying at Tsukiji Market in a new facility that has been built. The list (in Japanese) is on my blogpost:
Need to Know – Tsukiji Move to Toyosu
Some of the outer market shops, like Tsukiji Masamoto knives, also have a sister shop in the inner market. So, shops like Tsukiji Masamoto will be able to have a shop in both locations, but this is unusual. Most shops are either in the inner or the outer market, not both.
Where is Toyosu Shin Shijō?
The new Toyosu market is only about 2 km away from the current location. However, it is not as easy to access as Tsukiji market. Tsukiji is near two subway lines, the Oedo and the Hibiya lines. Toyosu is accessible by monorail and inconvenient for most people. It is said that about 42,000 people come to the inner market daily.
How do the fishmongers feel about the move?
Some are for the move, like 3rd-generation Tsukiji fishmonger Yoshikatsu Ikuta (Twitter https://twitter.com/ikutayoshikatsu) is for moving to Toyosu as soon as possible. Others do not want to move. Bottom line is that the current facilities need to be renovated and modernized.
What is the talk about the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games?
The move to Toyosu was decided before Tokyo was award the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The fact that Tsukiji needed to be upgraded was decided in 2001, 15 years ago. The move was supposed to have taken place last year, in 2015. The move keeps getting pushed back.
As part of the bid for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games the package included a road that would connect Toranomon to the Olympic Village which will be on an island next to Toyosu. The road would be constructed through the current Tsukiji Inner Market.
When Tokyo was named as the host city, then the move date was finally set as November 7th. This date was selected based on how much time it would take to tear down the inner market and to build the road.
So no, the market is not moving because of the Olympic Games. The move was decided long before Tokyo was announced as the host city.
So, going forward, what do we know?
On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, Tokyo Governor Koike, who is new to her position, announced that Tsukiji Market’s scheduled move to Toyosu on November 7th will NOT happen. Keep in mind that she is a former Environmental Minister and has been keenly on top of this topic for years. Also, that she inherited a project that is has apparently been poorly managed and over budget.
Koike outlined three main points for the delay in a press conference yesterday.
- 安全性への懸念 Safety concerns.
- 巨額かつ不透明な費用の増加 Unclear costs that have ballooned. Why?
- 情報公開の不足 Poor communications between related parties.
The land that Toyosu is being built on used to be a coal plant making gas for Tokyo residents. While the grounds have been sanitized the tests clearing it as safe have not been completed. Recent water tests have also come back as not safe. The safety checks are coming back with benzene as a product that is in the area. Benzene is a cancer-causing chemical, that is often used as a gasoline additive, so it is not a surprise that it is here. It is a disappointment that it was expected to be removed from the grounds before the move and that it still exists. Bottom line, the market feeds the Tokyo metropolitan area and needs to be cleared as a safe area to host a market that trades raw seafood and produce.
Construction costs have ballooned three times over what was budgeted. Delaying the move will also add to costs as it is estimated it will cost $70,000 USD per day for the Toyosu operating costs, even when it is not occupied.
There needs to be better communication between all affiliated parties, which has not happened to this point.
Koike has said she has put together a Project Team that will analyze and make recommendations following the next results of a safety check of the Toyosu area. The next results are scheduled to come back in January, so until then everything is put at a halt. Leading the project team is a lawyer, Kojima-san, who worked under Koike when she was the Environmental Minister.
There are some issues with the current Toyosu, including the fact that the size of the stall is smaller than the Tsukiji location making it hard for workers to work with knives. There are also concerns about the turrets moving up and down ramps and being able to make sharp turns in the tight space allowed, so other safety issues are being raised with the already developed facility.
If the market does move to Toyosu, will prices go up?
From our friends who drive to Tsukiji for work, they have said that while cheap parking exists at the current location, the new Toyosu parking is expensive. So their business costs will go up, which may be reflected for higher prices for smaller shops and businesses.
Is there a chance that Tsukiji will not move to Toyosu?
Koike said that she can’t rule it out. It will depend on the results of the Project Team.
Bottom line for now is the safety of the Toyosu land and water. Until January the move is put on hold. We can only wait for updates from the Project Team and the results of the safety check which will be announced in January.
“Tōmin first” has been repeated many times, “Tokyo citizens first”.
We will keep you posted here on our blog and on our Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/YukariSakamoto)
9/2 Koike mentions HAACP in a press conference. This is a food safety management system that did not exist in 1935 when the market was built. From what I have heard from planners of the Toyosu Market, the whole facility will be HACCP certified.