Save Our Sushi
Save Our Tsukiji
to a Multi-contaminated Land!!
S. O. S.
Save Our Sushi
Save Our Tsukiji
to a Multi-contaminated Land!!
The world-famous fish market Tsukiji (officially called the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market) is in danger of being destroyed by the order of Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG). The TMG is planning to relocate the Tsukiji Market to an old gas works site at Toyosu, situated several kilometers southwards, for unfathomable reasons despite the fact that this land is highly polluted with multiple contaminants.
The area of Tsukiji is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Tokyo where the traditional fish market and Japanese culture have been maintained since the Edo period. The Tsukiji Market, which consists of dozens of wholesalers and hundreds of brokers, is located in the core of the Tsukiji area and surrounded by hundreds of retail shops and restaurants. The wholesalers deliver their goods to dealers in regions far beyond the Tokyo metropolitan area. Not only fish merchants, but also Tokyo citizens and tourists (from all over the world!) visit Tsukiji every day.
To remove the market from the Tsukiji area means destroying the whole area of Tsukiji including its legacy and cultural heritages. According to the TMG plan, while the wholesalers and large brokers will be relocated to Toyosu, many small brokers as well as retail shops and restaurants are to remain in Tsukiji. Many of the stakeholders fear that such a situation will severely damage their businesses. So, soil contamination at the new location is not the only problem.
Indeed, since the late 1980s the majority of people in Tsukiji have agreed to a project to preserve and renew facilities and shops in the present site without a move, as seen in the successful similar case of a fish market in Osaka, the second-biggest city in Japan. The Tsukiji Market was on its way to redeveloping itself when Governor Ishihara suddenly visited there sometime after his inauguration in 1999, called it "old, cramped and dirty" and declared his plan to relocate it. He at first insisted that there was a need to remove the market in order to build a media center for the Tokyo 2016 Olympic games. But in 2008, after the serious contamination in the Toyosu area was disclosed, he reviewed schedules and shifted the location for the media center to an alternative site. However, he has still been adhering rigidly to the planned relocation of the market to Toyosu.
Governor Ishihara's reasoning is mainly that more money is required for the on-site renewal than for the relocation, which enables the TMG to sell the land where the market currently exists near to the city center. However, amazingly enough, as an alternative location for the food service facilities and shops he offers only Toyosu, where the cost, time and even the ultimate possibility of "cleaning-up" the soil are so controversial. Allegedly no other place to relocate is available.
Also, there is still some influence from the Olympic games. A few years before Governor Ishihara gave up the proposition to build the media center at Tsukiji, he had suddenly announced an "idea" to construct an underground expressway connecting the Haneda airport and Tsukiji, which is estimated to cost as much as USD 10 billion, while the TMG had no similar project in their city planning map. Even though Tsukiji now has no direct relationship with the Olympic games, his "idea" is to locate exit of the tunnel there. This is a potential threat to the market, which would be divided by the new expressway, if actualized.
Toyosu, where Governor Ishihara wants to move the fish market to, has been out of use for many years because of its heavy toxic contamination caused by the old gas works. This area has up to 43,000 times more benzene than the legally acceptable level; 500-500,000 times more (max. 590mg/kg) benzo[a]pyren than the natural level; 930 times more cyanogens than the allowable limit set by the TMG. There are also high levels of other toxic substances such as lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, mercury, etc. However, the TMG and Ministry of the Environment made Toyosu "an exception to a rule," which enables the TMG plan to be "legally acceptable." The Japan Association on the Environmental Studies has been criticizing the TMG plan because it will endanger the health of the fish dealers and food-safety of Japan.
In addition, there are three critical geological problems. Firstly, the TMG had insisted that one of the strata under Toyosu, called the Yurakucho stratum, was so impermeable as to keep the pollution from expansion. But, according to recent press reports, a data source publicized by the TMG themselves, has demonstrated that the Yurakucho stratum is actually far from impermeable, and that some part of it is already polluted. The TMG has attempted to trivialize the problems deliberately and neglect further investigations and had hidden the facts from public view until disclosure by press.
Secondly, not only having been under the sea until reclaimed after WW II (partly in the late 1920s), but also based on ancient soft sedimentary layers, Toyosu is in potential danger of subsidence. If any structures were built on the currently vacant lot, they would experience subsidence of up to 42 centimeters a year, according to a press report. But the ordinary practice of driving piles to prevent this, will cause further expansion of the pollution in the ground water.
Thirdly, Toyosu constantly faces ground liquefaction due to earthquakes. The TMG indeed has admitted the danger and announced simple measures to cover only some part of the area with concrete, as might be adequate in case of an average business town on clean soil. But they do not anticipate any probability that contaminated water would spew out from the ground to pollute the foodstuffs in the fish market directly and/or indirectly.
The cost for relocation, including the bill for "purifying" the land, is estimated more than USD 5 billion, and that will enormously increase as a result of the recent discovery of the toxic level stated above, in addition to the three geological problems. Because Tsukiji is located in the central business district of Tokyo and close to the Haneda airport, the TMG is planning to sell . That will bring about USD 20 billion to the TMG. Also, there are inevitably some people who can gain money from the process, as well as from the sustaining works to improve the environment there for the long term. Hence, one cannot avoid the speculation that this is their real reason for the relocation of the market, which risks wasting public funds and the food-safety of Japan.
"The World We Wish to Leave for Our Children"