Friday, January 8, 2016

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

On January 5th, in a pre-dawn ritual going back decades, a handbell rang to mark the year’s first auction at Tsukiji, Tokyo’s sprawling fish market. The star attraction was a glistening 200kg tuna, sold to a sushi restaurant chain for ¥14m ($118,000). But the sale was tinged with nostalgia and even bitterness. This time next year the wholesale market, the world’s busiest, will be gone.

Squeezed between the Sumida river and the Ginza shopping district, Tsukiji is creaking at the seams. Some 60,000 people work under its leaky roof, and hundreds of forklifts, carrying everything from sea urchins to whale meat, careen across bumpy floors. The site’s owner, the city government, wants it moved.

That is unpopular. Traders resent being yanked to a sterile new site to the south. The new market is being built on a wharf whose soil is contaminated by the toxic effluent from a former gasworks. The clean-up and negotiations delayed the move for over a decade.

The final blow was Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics. A new traffic artery will cut through Tsukiji, transporting visitors to the games’ venues. Part of the site will become a temporary press centre, says Yutaka Maeyasui, the executive in charge of shifting the market. Our time is up, he says, glancing around his decrepit office. The site has become too small, old and crowded. An earthquake could bring the roof down.

by The Economist |  Read more:
Image: uncredited