Tsukiji Market, best known as where Tokyo's daily seafood intake comes from, has been Tokyo's main fish market since 1935, when it relocated from Nihonbashi in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
|Soil clean-up work on Toyosu Island for Tokyo's new fish and produce market|
However, the Tsukiji district, in Tokyo's Chuo ward, is very close to the upmarket Ginza shopping district and the land there is very high priced. The former governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, pressed for the market's move to Toyosu, 2.3 km south-east of Tsukiji, and moves finally got underway to do so, with the relocation originally planned for November 2016, but since postponed.
Toyosu is on land reclaimed 80 years ago, in 1937, and is an industrial zone that was home to a gas plant. Soil and groundwater testing revealed that about 36% of the surface soil on Toyosu, and about 18% of the sub-surface soil and water was contaminated as a result of the gas production operations, which does not suit it for the handling of foodstuffs.
So for the past few years, earth has been brought in to Toyosu from construction sites around Tokyo in order to replace the top 4.5 meters of contaminated soil with clean soil and raise the land further above the sea level of surrounding Tokyo Bay.
According to the information on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's website, dating from 2011, the clean-up operation is exhaustive and intricate, involving, for example, not only replacing all the topsoil on Toyosu, but first removing all known spots of contaminated soil and groundwater beneath, and then flushing the spots out with clean water for good measure.
Additionally, in August 2011, it was confirmed that, in addition to replacing the first 4.5 meters of soil over the whole 40 hectares of Toyosu island, a 4.5 meter deep concrete-enclosed space was being created under the proposed site for the transferred market itself, thus effectively isolating the site from the soil and groundwater below.
This was all well and good, except that the existence of the concrete "cave," built of course with public money, was not made public. Being a space that completely isolates the new market from the ground below, no safely concerns can be foreseen, but there is now a hubbub over the fact that the existence of the cave was not made public.
|Ryoichi Kishimoto, Chairman of Central Market Committee of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, apologizes|
The storminess of the meeting seemed to be fueled primarily by the fact that the internal investigation conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government into why the existence of the cave was not announced not only concluded that no one in particular was to blame, but that the written decision that reached this conclusion could not be released as it contained "personal information." In other words, no heads would roll.
So, rather than a matter of having unveiled a public safety health hazard, this whole matter is one of technocratic arrogance on the one hand ("Why bother telling everyone about something we don't think they really need to know?") and storm-in-a-teacup (teapot, maybe?) witchhuntery on the other by politicians wanting to look "responsible" of bureaucrats who "just want to get the job done."
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government seems to be doing a fine job of cleaning up Toyosu and making it ready for the new market. The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly seems to be doing a fine job of seeking accountability for the withholding of information.
Bureaucrats will be bureaucrats, and politicians will be politicians.
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