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Tokyo's Famous Fish Market Reopens at New Location, Off to a Rough Start

Oct. 12, 2018
6 min read
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Tokyo's Famous Fish Market Reopens at New Location, Off to a Rough Start
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The world's largest fish market has resumed operations at a new location in Tokyo after two years of planning, but its first day back didn't go smoothly.

The new $5 billion Toyosu market replaced the 80-year-old Tsukiji fish market on Thursday and, according to Reuters, was welcomed with a minor truck fire and traffic jam. The 5:30am tuna auction was filled with shouting and bells ringing — the new location is something Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says will need some getting used to.

"Together, we would like to develop this as the core market of Tokyo, and Japan, and make the Toyosu brand better day by day,” Koike told Reuters.

The Tsukiji fish market was one of Tokyo's top attractions where tourists could be found lining up hours before the doors opened in the early morning and would generate $14 million worth of business daily. The market stopped admitting guests to the tuna auction on Sept. 15 and viewing of wholesale markets for seafood and vegetables ended on Sept. 29. Tsukiji officially closed on Oct. 6. TPG was able to experience this famous market back in 2011 with some help from a TPG reader.

Year-end shoppers visit shops selling fresh and dried seafood outside Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo on December 28, 2017.People visited the shops to purchase food and supplies in preparation to celebrate New Year's Day, one of the biggest holidays in Japan. / AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP / Getty Images.

Reuters reported that a survey by a group fighting the relocation revealed that more than 80% of Tsukiji fish traders opposed the move to Toyosu. The opening day was filled with several mixed reactions and a few concerns. Reporter Yukari Sakamoto for Food Sake Tokyo explained a few pressing factors like access, parking, contamination and lighting in the tuna auction.

The new market is on an island with limited access to public transportation. According to Food Sake Tokyo, it took some truck drivers more than two hours to get into the market. Additionally, there is limited parking and it cannot accommodate the tens of thousands workers and customers expected to visit.

There are also concerns over contamination because the island was polluted with toxic substances in 2016. According to Reuters, Tokyo spent 3.8 billion yen ($34 million) to dig hundreds of wells to pump out groundwater.

Although the new market makes it easier to view the live tuna auction, one vendor said that the overhead LED lights make it difficult for tuna buyers to get an accurate sense of a tuna's color and that the auction room's temperature is too high.

Tsukiji market's demolition has already begun, however, the Outer Market is still open and ready for business. This old location will provide temporary parking for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and eventually turn in to a tourist center.

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This fish market will definitely be worth visiting, regardless if it started off on the wrong foot. Our guide tells you everything you need to know about Tokyo, from how to get there, where to stay, what to do and what to eat.