Tsukiji: Japan’s famed fish market to relocate

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Two men cut into a massive tuna.
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Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji market is being shut down, marking the end of 83 years of bustle and trade at what became the world’s largest fish market.

A tourist hotspot, the site attracted streams of bleary-eyed visitors keen to catch the pre-dawn tuna auctions. Its huge variety of fish and seafood was sold to many of the city’s top restaurants.

The inner market is due to close on Saturday, and traders will move from the ageing facility to a new, more modern site in Toyosu, about 2km away.

The relocation of the historic market has long been in the works but faced opposition from some vendors right up until its final days.

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Nearly 500 types of seafood were sold at the market in the Japanese capital. Tsukiji is within walking distance of the upscale Ginza district, where some of Tokyo’s top restaurants are located. Chefs seeking the best available products formed close relationships with vendors.

  • The twilight of Tokyo’s legendary fish market

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The market was constructed in 1935, in the aftermath of the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, and built largely from corrugated iron sheds. It became a sprawling, busy market, but was seen by many as rundown and overcrowded.

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Tuna auctions – held in the inner industrial market – attracted big-spending buyers. The New Year auction often fetched higher prices than normal, because the event was considered auspicious for business.

The bluefin tuna, pictured above, sold for a hefty 74.2 million yen ($615,350; £499,235) at last year’s auction – but well short of the record of more than $1.7m paid for a single bluefin in 2013.

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The enormous volume and variety of produce meant Tsujiki attracted tens of thousands of tourist visitors each year.

  • The soul of a fish market

The so-called outer market – home to shops selling food and other goods – will remain after the move.

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Efforts to move the market to a more modern location were met with resistance by many of the workers, some of whom have been in the family business for generations.

The move to the new $5bn facility in Toyosu, which used to be home to a chemical plant, was delayed over contamination concerns.

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

The new market site is due to open on Thursday, 11 October.

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