Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market, the largest seafood market in the world, closed last week after eight decades of operation. Hosting tens of thousands of merchants, buyers and tourists, the chaotic Tsukiji was an icon of fast-moving, food-obsessed Tokyo.
While the stalls and restaurants in the “outer market” will remain accessible, most of the major business has moved to Toyosu market, a brand new 407,000 square foot facility a few kilometers away.
Some die-hards aren’t thrilled with the new digs, for both nostalgic and practical reasons. Sellers worry the new location will result in a drop-off of business. Some are concerned about potential pollution at the new site, which used to host a gas plant. Environmental safety tests over the last year showed highly elevated levels of benzine in the groundwater. As recently as last month, some sellers were still filing lawsuits to delay the move.
For others, the move to the gleaming, modern Toyosu is a blow to Japan’s culinary soul. ”On a purely professional level, maybe Toyosu is better, but on a sentimental level, it’s Tsukiji … the head says yes, but the heart says no,” Lionel Beccat, a Tokyo-based chef, told AFP.
Tokyo fishmonger Toshitaka Moria put it more succinctly to the New York Times (paywall): “Dirty is best.”
The most iconic sight at the late Tsukiji, the early morning tuna auction, resumed at Toyosu yesterday, as crowds of discerning fish buyers sized up the day’s offering. The ritual is traditionally a major draw for lines of bleary-eyed tourists, but few were in sight at Toyosu. The new market is still letting tourists view the tuna auction, but from the separate observation deck.
Photos of the first auction show fish buyers picking up right where they left off.