Japan's famed Tsukiji fish market to relocate

Japan's famed Tsukiji fish market to relocate

It became a sprawling, busy market, but was seen by many as rundown and overcrowded.

Opened in 1935, Tsukiji was for many years known only to its vendors and the food industry, but it gained global reknown in recent decades and its tuna auctions even hit the headlines, with one fish going for a record $1.8 million at the market's New Year's auction in 2013.

"We'll try to establish a new brand (at Toyosu) and bring it up as a core market", said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at another event in the capital.

In the final weeks before the relocation to its new home, several hundred protesters braved the rain to speak out against the move.

On a typical day, about 1,628 tons of seafood pass through Tsukiji, with a value of about 1.6 billion yen (S$19.36 million).

Some buyers are concerned that the new Toyosu market in a less convenient location will cause road traffic congestion.

The new site will feature state-of-the-art refrigeration, while tourists will be confined to special galleries behind glass.

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But the move also has its detractors, with concerns about everything from Toyosu's location, far from clients, to pollution at the new site. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike gave assurances in September that the site was now safe, but some retailers remain anxious. While some shop owners have chose to relocate to the new site, others have chosen to close down.

The move began a day after the last tuna auction at the market, a pre-dawn ritual for Tokyo's food world that also once drew crowds of tourists hoping for one of just 120 spots to watch. The New Year auction often fetched higher prices than normal, because the event was considered auspicious for business.

A number of electric carts and forklifts traveled in a convoy on a road in central Tokyo early Sunday morning as they moved from the closed Tsukiji fish market to a new site at the Toyosu waterfront area.

The so-called outer market at Tsukiji - brick-and-mortar shops selling everything from seaweed to coffee - will remain after the move.

Beyond that, the site's future is more uncertain, though Koike has suggested it could be transformed into a kind of culinary theme park, commemorating the market's colourful history.

"They all agree that the current site needs to be upgraded".

"You're thinking "oh wow, this is the end of an era".

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