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Governor Ishihara pushing plan to relocate 'Kitchen of Tokyo' to contaminated area
Serving as the "Kitchen of Tokyo," the Tsukiji wholesale market has supplied seafood to Tokyo residents for more than 70 years.
Since Governor Ishihara Shintaro took office in 1999, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been pushing a plan to relocate the market to a vacant space in the Toyosu district where a Tokyo Gas factory stood.
In January 2001, Tokyo Gas announced that the site is heavily contaminated with toxic substances far exceeding environmental standards. The factory's 30-year-production of gas from coal polluted the soil and groundwater.
However, less than a year after the company's revelation, the metropolitan government officially adopted the relocation plan.
"Since the Tsukiji market sells perishable foods, it is a matter of course for the government to give up the relocation plan when toxins were discovered there. People with common sense should be concerned about how those substances will adversely affect people's health in 20 or 30 years," said a wholesaler at the market.
In dealing with the contamination, Tokyo Gas submitted to the metropolitan government a plan to replace the soil and to raise the ground level. This will supposedly bury the toxic substances exceeding 10 times the environmental standards in the soil to a depth of 4.5 meters from the surface.
Japanese Communist Party Metropolitan Assembly member Muramatsu Emiko at an assembly committee meeting on January 25 criticized Tokyo Gas's sloppy investigation. Pointing out dangers, including that posed by possible earthquakes, she stated, "Amid the increasing public awareness of food safety, the relocation of the market to the contaminated area in Toyosu goes against Tokyo residents' wishes."
Even before Tokyo Gas's revelation, traders in Tsukiji market expressed opposition to relocation of the market due to anxiety for their business. According to an opinion poll taken by the Wholesales Cooperative of Tokyo Fish Market in 1998, 60 percent of respondents expressed opposition to the relocation while 40 percent supported it.
Last October, some 1,500 traders marched in demonstration, protesting against the relocation of Tsukiji market, as the Tokyo government was forcibly promoting the relocation plan.
After relocating the fish market, the metropolitan government is going to build a "media center" in Tsukiji as a facility for the 2016 Olympic Games that Tokyo is bidding to host.
"I can't tolerate Ishihara's policy of contaminating the world-famous 'Tsukiji' name for the sake of the Olympics," said a 50-year veteran of wholesaler.
A National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)-affiliated metropolitan central market workers' union representative said, "The metropolitan government is talking about 'relocation,' but its true purpose is to sell off the Tsukiji site. It is also aiming at reducing the number of shops by setting higher rents."
Yoshida Manzo, who will be running in the Tokyo gubernatorial election in April as an independent candidate supported by the JCP, said, "Governor Ishihara's arbitrary relocation plan is to offer major general construction firms the Tokyo residents' property. I will thoroughly review the relocation scheme in order to defend food safety and our valuable food culture."
- Akahata, February 4, 2007
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