After more than 80 years, Tokyo’s world-famous fish market is relocating, but the head of this 104-year-old wholesaler has one concern.

October 6 marked the end of an era. Since 1935, Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market had been Japan’s premiere site for seafood sales, but after more than 80 years in business, the facility’s wholesale operations have closed down.

While Tsukiji’s outer market and restaurants remain open, the wholesalers are in the midst of moving farther east to the Toyosu neighborhood, echoing the relocation of Tokyo’s largest fish market from the Nihonbashi district to Tsukiji which took place in the 1930s. Before the big move, we stopped by Tsukiji for one last visit, and to talk with the head of a seafood supplier that’s been in business for over 100 years.

▼ The entrance to Tsukiji’s inner market on October 5

Katsuyuki Hosokawa is the managing director of Nariichi Sakahama. Founded in 1914, his company specializes in tuna (or maguro, as it’s called in Japanese), and the opening of the new market in Toyosu means the company is pulling up its roots following decades in Tsukiji. It was still before noon when we arrived at Nariichi Sakahama’s stall, but the company had already concluded its sales for the day.

▼ Tuna from Miyagi Prefecture (top) and South Africa (bottom)

But the early closing time didn’t mean the company was taking it easy. “I think every wholesaler is in the same position, but we’re swamped with orders right now,” said Hosokawa. Though the Tsukiji market shut down on October 6, the Toyosu replacement won’t open until the 11th, since many of the merchants are small businesses that can’t make the move in a single night. “The market has never been shut down for four days in a row before,” Hosokawa explained, “so we’re flooded with orders from restaurants that need enough fish to tide them over during the transition.”

But at least once everyone is settled in at Toyosu, it’ll be back to business as usual, right? If anything, having a brand-new facility should make work flow even smoother than it did before, shouldn’t it?

Maybe. While more modern buildings and a location that’s less convenient for distracting tourists should contribute to smoother business-to-business sales, Hosokawa has already spotted one potential problem with the not-even-opened-yet Toyosu market.

“There aren’t enough parking spaces,” he said. “Just for the people who will be working at the market, it probably needs about 200 more parking spaces than are planned. For our line of work, people have to show during the middle of the night, and at least before dawn. We sometimes have people coming to our shop at between midnight and one in the morning, and it’s not like they can use public transportation, because the train stop running before that.”

It’s not just workers Hosokawa is concerned about either. Tsukiji is just a short drive from Tokyo’s swanky Ginza neighborhood, and Hosokawa says many buyers from Ginza’s upscale restaurants would come by car to the Tsukiji market to acquire choice cuts of fish to serve to their discerning customers as sushi or sashimi. “If there aren’t enough parking spaces even for workers at the Toyosu market, customers who come by car are going to have to pay to park in a lot,” he said, and he’s worried that this may dissuade some regular customers from continuing with their regular buying habits. “I’m really not sure how it’s going to be once the new market opens.”

▼ Nariichi Sakahama’s Tsukiji stall

Ready or not, though, the Toyosu market opens on October 11.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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