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Editorial: Gov. Koike's fuzzy plan for Tsukiji market move lacks vision

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced her basic plan at a June 20 news conference for relocating the capital's wholesale market from the famed Tsukiji facility to new digs in the Toyosu area, and for what the Tsukiji site is to become once the fishmongers have moved on. However, it's impossible to say that we have been presented with a true vision for the future of Tokyo's markets.

Under Koike's plan, Tsukiji's market functions are essentially to shift to Toyosu. However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will not sell the Tsukiji property, but rather aim to redevelop it within five years. The exact uses of the Tsukiji and Toyosu facilities will be considered while moving forward, with relevant information to be released to the public as necessary. Eventually, Toyosu will become an integrated food distribution hub.

Regarding if Toyosu will entirely replace Tsukiji, Koike did not provide a precise answer. All that is clear, for now, is that the wholesale market will be moved to Toyosu.

The first question needing a more specific answer is: What will happen to Tsukiji after the move?

Koike told reporters that both Tsukiji and Toyosu would have market functions, and that Tokyo would support market tenants who want to move back into Tsukiji after the Toyosu move. Is it realistic for businesses to set up in Toyosu and then move back? Koike presented no clear idea of which market site would take on which functions.

Then there is the question of profitability.

The original market move plan was to pay off about 440 billion yen of the Toyosu facility's some 600 billion yen construction cost through the sale of the Tsukiji site. If the Tsukiji location is to be redeveloped and not sold off, metro Tokyo will need to find a new source of funds to help cover the bill for Toyosu. What's more, redeveloping Tsukiji will also cost money.

We must say that political calculation appears to have played a big part in the timing of Koike's announcement.

The governor decided to delay the Toyosu move in August last year, due to a missing soil base underneath the new market's main building plus the detection of toxic substances in soil and groundwater at the site. Since then, the soil base problem plus the opaque nature of the details of the market move plan have brought the metro government's negligence into harsh relief.

However, a resolution to the Toyosu problem kept receding over the horizon, and Liberal Democratic Party figures labeled Koike the "indecisive governor."

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election campaign kicks off on June 23, and it seems very likely that Koike felt she had to present some kind of solution to the market problem before then. It also appears that she sought to present something that would not raise the ire of either pro-move market tenants or those opposed to going to Toyosu.

It has been about 10 months since the Toyosu move was put on hold, and the issue is now attracting national attention. Tensions among market tenants are also deepening as time goes by.

Despite the increasing gravity of the problem, Gov. Koike wrapped up her news conference in just 30 minutes after taking only a few questions -- a performance likely to puzzle Tokyo voters.

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