October 11, 2018
Tokyo- A new wholesale food market opened on Thursday in Tokyo's Toyosu bayside district, succeeding the history and tradition of the famed Tsukiji market, long known as the "kitchen" of the metropolitan area.
The much-anticipated opening came two years later than the initial schedule due to responses to soil contamination at the new market site in the Japanese capital's Koto Ward.
Following a four-day moving period after the Tsukiji market in neighboring Chuo Ward ended its 83-year history on Saturday, tuna auctions and other activities began at the new market from 5:30 a.m. Thursday (8:30 p.m. Wednesday).
Just before the auctions started after celebratory hand-clapping and applause, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said in an address to market officials and others, "Heart is being put into the new market."
She said she hopes they will transfer their "skills and discerning eye" developed through their years at Tsukiji over to the new market.
"We hope to create a Toyosu brand that exceeds that of Tsukiji," a seafood industry official said. "Let's work together so the market can prosper over the next 100 years."
At a news conference in the prime minister's office, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he hopes people related to the new market will "make efforts to bring a Toyosu brand to the world."
On Thursday, a total of 1,733 raw and frozen tuna were put up for auction at Toyosu.
A fresh tuna caught off Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan, fetched the highest price at the auctions of 20,000 yen per kilogram.
In a festive mood, a 400-gram box of sea urchin from Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, sold for as much as 200,000 yen.
Wholesalers and middlemen were caught in turmoil as buyers and delivery trucks arrived late mainly due to traffic jams in roads near the Toyosu market and as they faced difficulty in transporting boxes through a market that they have yet to get used to.
"Although there are many issues and I have my concerns, I'm only thinking about selling really delicious fish," said Yasuhiro Yamazaki, 49, head of an intermediate wholesaler dealing with fishery products.
He voiced determination to build an attractive market.
"While there aren't many customers, the building is spacious, clean and cool," Masahiro Sugimoto, 58-year-old head of an intermediate wholesaler for fruit and vegetables, said.
About 500 seafood intermediate wholesalers moved from Tsukiji to Toyosu, while some 30 wound up business.
The site of the Toyosu market, located some 2.3 kilometers away from the old market, occupies around 40 hectares, 70 pct larger than Tsukiji.
Unlike the aging Tsukiji market, which was easily affected by the air outside, the Toyosu market is an enclosed structure with state-of-the-art facilities. As temperature control and hygiene management are carried out thoroughly, the quality of fish and other products is carefully maintained.
With domestic consumption of fresh seafood floundering, the Toyosu market needs to develop new customers, including from overseas. Securing food safety is another challenge for the new market due to concern over reputational damage after harmful substances were detected in groundwater at the Toyosu site, which previously hosted a gas plant.
The public will have access to the new market, including restaurants and other facilities there, from Saturday.
A tour to see tuna auctions, which was popular among foreign tourists at Tsukiji, will start on Jan. 15 next year. Visitors will be allowed to watch the auctions through a glass wall.
At Tsukiji, work to dismantle the market facilities started on Thursday afternoon. The site will be used partly as a vehicle depot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Jiji Press
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