How can Toyosu market inherit Tsukiji market’s venerable ‘brand’?

The Yomiuri ShimbunHow can the status as one of the world’s top seafood markets be passed from Tsukiji to Toyosu?

Toyosu market opens in Tokyo today. It has a total area of about 40 hectares, making it 70 percent larger than the aged Tsukiji market. Wisdom must be exercised to devise ways of utilizing it not only as “the kitchen of the country” but also for multiple other purposes.

Toyosu is an enclosed facility that is shut off from outdoor air, making temperature control and sanitary management easier. This opens the way for market traders to acquire certificates for meeting international hygiene control standards, a credential that was difficult to obtain at Tsukiji market. This could contribute to upgrading the credibility of Toyosu.

The freight handling area has been made directly connected to the wholesaling area. A building for processing and packaging, which did not exist at Tsukiji, makes it possible to process, subdivide and package cargoes, thus enhancing the commodity value of perishable goods traded at Toyosu for shipment.

Toyosu has the potential to become a popular site to attract foreign tourists. A glass-walled tour route has been installed. If you scan a QR code with a smartphone, you can read explanations in foreign languages. Many eating and drinking places have been set up at Toyosu.

There were twists and turns before the opening of Toyosu market. It took 17 years since the move to Toyosu was officially decided, when Shintaro Ishihara served as governor of Tokyo.

Due to the bungled handling of soil contamination countermeasures, more than ¥16 billion was spent in the past two years alone for such purposes as additional construction work and payment of compensation money. The Tokyo metropolitan government cannot be immune from responsibility in this regard.

Secure ways to earn profits

Experts have confirmed the site’s safety in terms of the contamination of soil and groundwater. To dispel anxiety, the metropolitan government and traders are called on to work together toward securing a system to continue to ensure safety. Prompt public disclosure of information is indispensable to confidence-building.

The environment surrounding the wholesale market is harsh. Given the drop in consumption of fishery products and the subsequent change in distribution methods, the trade volume at Tsukiji market has declined. The trade volume of fishery products and the number of intermediate wholesalers at Tsukiji were halved compared with early in the Heisei era, which began in 1989. Some of Tsukiji’s 530 intermediate wholesalers used the move to Toyosu to wind up their business.

The management cost for Toyosu will be four times that for Tsukiji. It is estimated that deficits will amount to ¥9.2 billion annually, a sharp deterioration from a surplus of several hundred million yen posted by Tsukiji market. The metropolitan government had maintained its market account without relying excessively on provisions from the general account. But the situation will change significantly.

A challenge for Toyosu market is how to secure earnings. Reexamination of wholesaling commission fees, the principal revenue source of the market, and drastic efforts to enhance management efficiency will be called for. Expansion of overseas sales channels should also be studied.

To make up for the projected deficits, utilization of the site of Tsukiji market will also be key.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has put forth a plan to construct a “food theme park” at the Tsukiji site. Koike’s policy of “chasing two hares” by trying to secure a synergistic effect together with a facility to be built at Toyosu to attract visitors brought about chaos. Affected by this, the opening of the facility at Toyosu will be delayed until 2023.

The metropolitan government should present a definite path to achieving a goal of developing Toyosu as a vibrant space.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2018)Speech


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