The Controversy Surrounding the Relocation of Tsukiji Fish Market

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Get ready to rock and sushi roll, darlings, because we're about to dive into a tale as vibrant as the bustling lanes of Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. This market has long acted as the heart and soul of Tokyo's seafood culture, filled with energy, colors, and flavors. 

From early morning tuna auctions to forklifts zipping through the market, Tsukiji was a sensation. But then came the news — a glamorous relocation to the sparkling new Toyosu Market! 

The whispers reached all corners of Japan, from Osaka to Ginza, and everybody wanted a front-row seat to this fresh seafood celebration. Get ready for a delightful adventure as we explore the history, controversies, and legacy of the world's biggest fish market.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

The Tsukiji Fish Market was born from the ashes of tragedy. Following the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Tokyo saw the emergence of this bustling market, weaving itself into the fabric of the metropolitan city. 

The market's site was previously occupied by the Edo Castle, which was heavily affected by the Great Kanto Earthquake. Tsukiji's name even refers to its original location in Tsukiji — a name meaning "constructed land" or "reclaimed land."

It was here, darling, that you could find the freshest catch from Tokyo Bay, served with a smile and a side of authentic street food like ramen. Tsukiji was a rich blend of culture and commerce, drawing tourists from Osaka to Kyoto. You'd see Japanese forklifts zipping through narrow lanes while chefs from sushi restaurants haggled for the best tuna.

English-speaking tourists would marvel at the Tsukiji Inner Market's seafood variety, including its famous tuna auctions. But the charm was not limited to fish, darling. The fresh fruits and vegetables at the metropolitan central wholesale market were as colorful as Tokyo's vibrant street life.

You'd feel the buzz from Nihonbashi to Uogashi, as Tsukiji was the place for Tokyo's freshest products. The variety was as endless as the Tokyo city skyline, from sushi restaurants to food stalls. 

There was no denying Tsukiji's influence on Tokyo's culinary scene, as it was more than a market. It was the heart of central Tokyo. Oh, but things were about to change!

The Big Move to Toyosu Fish Market — A New Era

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, with then-Governor Yuriko Koike leading the charge, decided it was time for a new era. The new Toyosu Market was chosen, and the entire operation was shifted from Tsukiji, close to Ginza and Nihonbashi, to the new location near Tokyo Bay.

The move was not without controversy. The decision to move this hub, handling a whopping 25 percent of Japan's total wholesale fish, to the brand-new Toyosu site was as spicy as a plate of wasabi!

While some of the protests had merit, it’s a fact that the original Tsukiji site was crying out for an upgrade. The open-air facility's inability to control temperatures, especially during those sweltering summer months, and cramped storage facilities had the market gasping for space. Add serious concerns about earthquake resistance, fire safety, and sanitation; you have a recipe for disaster.

But, oh, did the drama unfold! Tsukiji-related businesses, wholesalers, and even the Tsukiji Okamisan Kai (a feisty group of women workers) cried foul. Protests erupted, legal suits were filed, and banners were waved. The Tokyo landmark's destruction had the city in a tizzy, and many believed the relocation was handled with all the grace of a fumbling fishmonger.

What was all the fuss about? Despite Toyosu being marked safe, concerns were as numerous as fish in the sea. 

Benzene levels 130 times the limit, high levels of contaminants, and fear that consumer trust was falling created many problems for the vendors of the market leading up to the move. Even restaurant owners were threatening to find their fish elsewhere.

And let's not forget the on-site planning issues. Though Toyosu was almost twice the size of Tsukiji, it was split into three parts by large roads, making it more segmented than a bento box. 

Transportation and logistics were another kettle of fish entirely. With the Yurikamome train stretched thin and congestion causing inconvenience, the travel time had some seafood sellers in a stew.

Not to mention, the relocation threatened to displace Tsukiji's resident rats into high-end areas like Ginza. So it’s safe to say that the Tsukiji to Toyosu transition was tumultuous. 

For all of the challenges and controversy around its move, move it eventually did, allowing the Tsukiji legacy to continue, with the famous tuna auctions and the spirit of the wholesale market, now thriving in its new home.

Traditions Continued: The Early Morning Tuna Auctions

If you thought bidding on eBay was thrilling, the Tsukiji Fish Market's famous tuna auctions are a whole different ball game. As the biggest in Japan, these early morning auctions became a tourist attraction, drawing people from around the world — and they continue in the market’s new home.

The early morning sees sushi chefs from Ginza to Uogashi jostling for the best catch of the day. A mere visit to these auctions could make you feel like a part of Tokyo's fish market elite. The tuna auctions were so popular that the market introduced a lottery system to manage the crowds. 

The hustle and bustle aren't just for anyone, honey; you have to earn your spot! And while the tuna steals the show — including some record-setting sales — the market area is also a haven for other fresh seafood delicacies.

While Tsukiji's famous tuna auctions moved to the new Toyosu Market, the spirit of excitement, the clash of bidding paddles and the aroma of fresh fish linger in the air. From Tsukiji Station to Shijo-mae Station, the story of Tokyo's tuna auctions is one for the record books. 

Whether it's the biggest fish market or the best spot for sushi and ramen, it all starts with the ring of the auctioneer's bell. 

The New Location

Toyosu isn’t just a new location — it’s a whole new experience that blends the new with the old for a tantalizing visit that’s well worth your time. The new market has an observation deck, turning this wholesale area into a tourist attraction. 

Visitors can now look out over Tokyo Bay and even catch a glimpse of the famous tuna auctions from above. The new location consists of two parts: the inner and outer market. 

You’ll go to the inner market for all the fresh food and fish you could ever need. It’s worth a stroll through even if you’re not literally in the market for some fish because, guaranteed, you’ll never see such a variety of fish so fresh again in your life. The inner market is where to go, too, if you want to catch the legendary tuna auctions in their new location.

The outer market should be your go-to if you’re looking for restaurants and prepared food. If you want to try sushi so fresh that it will make you weep with its deliciousness, then the outer market is the place to go for sashimi and even fancier rolls — although we recommend keeping it simple so you can truly savor the flavors of the market. 

After all, you can’t get any fresher than knowing the fish has just been pulled off the boat for the market earlier that day, and it totally revolutionizes everything you thought you knew about good sushi.

Even if you’re not usually one for raw fish, it’s worth sampling what the outer market has to offer. Because if all you’ve known previously is grocery store sushi in the US of A, you haven’t tried sushi at all!

With its chic, modern architecture and innovative design, the new Toyosu Market is more than just a market. It’s also an architectural marvel. Every corner is Instagram-worthy, from the sweeping views of Tokyo Bay to the vibrant tuna auctions to the endless rows of delicious fresh food.

Spilling the Green Tea on Tsukiji

The Tsukiji Fish Market's move to the new Toyosu Market was a big shift that came with a lot of considerations. From the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo to the new site's modern appeal, the journey may have been harrowing, but the result is the continuation of a glorious piece of Japan’s foodie history. 

The early morning auctions, the forklifts, the ramen, and the sushi restaurants all continue to live on in the new location, carrying the legacy of Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. Tsukiji Station and Shijo-mae Station stand as bookends to this historical change, and the impact on the metropolitan central wholesale market was far-reaching. 

From the Great Kanto Earthquake to the modern marvel that is Toyosu, the tale of Tokyo's fish market is a story for the ages.


The Great Japan Earthquake of 1923 | Smithsonian

History of the Tokyo Fish Market | The Toyosu Shijou

Edo Castle | Travel Japan

Tuna Sells for Record $3 Million in Auction at Tokyo’s New Fish Market | Reuters

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