Tokyo's Toyosu market off to energetic start

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Toyosu wholesale food market opened for business early Thursday in Koto Ward, Tokyo, holding tuna auctions for the first time at the market.

 Carrying on the vigor of its predecessor, Tsukiji market in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, trading got off to a vibrant start at the new location.

 Toyosu market was built on an about 40-hectare plot that is about 1.7 times larger than Tsukiji market, at a cost of about ¥600 billion. Auctions began before 5 a.m. in a fishery wholesale building and a fruit and vegetable building.

 “I’ve put aside my sadness at leaving Tsukiji and come to Toyosu,” said Hiromi Amino, president of fishery wholesaler Daito Gyorui Co. “We’ll work together to build a Toyosu brand that will surpass Tsukiji’s and make it a market that will lead to the next 100 years.”

 After this pledge, a tuna auction started at 5:30 a.m., the energetic calls of the auctioneers echoing through the venue. 

 From the fishery wholesale building that houses the auction site, three-wheeled electric vehicles called turret trucks passed through a passageway carrying freshly auctioned products, heading to the fishery intermediate wholesale building one after another. 

 Yasuhiro Yamazaki, the 49-year-old president of Yamaharu Co., one of about 500 intermediate fishery wholesalers at the building, was busy checking the quality of purchased fish and giving shipping instructions to his employees.  

 “Now that Toyosu market has opened, it’s no use talking about our worries. We have no choice but to make Toyosu a globally known market.”

 A total of 1,733 tuna were traded at Thursday’s tuna auctions, about twice as much as on the final business day of Tsukiji market. A tuna caught off Minmaya, Aomori Prefecture, fetched the highest price of ¥4.28 million ($38,000), which is ¥20,000 per kilogram, according to preliminary figures. Sea urchin from Hamanaka, Hokkaido, was auctioned at ¥200,000 per box, an all-time high price even including Tsukiji market sales.    

 First-day auctions were also held at the fruit and vegetable building, and farm produce was traded at nearly 100 intermediate wholesale outlets.

 “Today marked the start of hope at Toyosu,” Yasutoshi Maki, the 53-year-old president of fruit and vegetable intermediate wholesaler Sadamatsu.

 Sadamatsu has operated since the opening of Tsukiji market in 1935, and Maki frequented the market from the time he was about 3 years old. “Tsukiji’s attraction was that it was not organized, but at Toyosu, it’s easy to move around, as there’s a good traffic flow from the wholesalers to intermediate wholesalers.”

Crowded market

 At Toyosu market, some restaurant and retail store employees got lost as they ran errands. Iori Muroi, a 69-year-old operator of a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo’s Iidabashi district, rushed to return to the restaurant. 

 “I wasted more than an hour going back and forth while looking at a map. I have to get ready for our lunchtime operations.”

 There was also congestion, which had been a cause for concern from before the market’s opening. When Toyosu market opened to operators at 12 a.m. Thursday, trucks transporting fresh produce gathered around the facilities, and vehicles trying to unload their products caused congestion inside the market and its vicinity shortly after 3 a.m.

 At about 8:30 a.m., the market was crowded with vehicles trying to leave after making purchases. An announcement was even made at the market that Harumi-dori street was jammed.

After a long delay

 Then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara decided in 2001 to move Tsukiji market to the Toyosu site, where a Tokyo Gas Co. factory once stood. However, a large amount of toxic substances, far in excess of environmental standards, were found in the soil, and this and other problems threw the relocation plan into disarray. Major work to deal with the contaminated soil was carried out.

 After that, the relocation was scheduled for November 2016, but Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike postponed the date in August that year, saying that safety concerns remained. An expert panel of the Tokyo metropolitan government concluded that there was no problem with safety on legal or scientific grounds. The relocation was ultimately realized about two years later than initially scheduled.

 Demolition of Tsukiji market, which ended its 83-year history on Wednesday, was to start Thursday afternoon. The work is scheduled to continue through February 2020.