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Tokyo aims to retain charm of Tsukiji fish market

A fishmonger arranges his stall at the famous Tsukiji fish market. - Reuters picA fishmonger arranges his stall at the famous Tsukiji fish market. - Reuters picTOKYO, Feb 19 — Concerned that the cachet and charm of one of Tokyo's best-loved tourist spots will be lost when the Tsukiji fish wholesale market moves to a new facility in 2014, the city's authorities have announced plans for a new marketplace on part of the site of the present facility.

City officials have unveiled plans for a scaled-down market in an area that is presently used as a car park. They intend to construct around 100 shops selling fresh fish, vegetables, cooking equipment and souvenirs, as well as a number of restaurants serving sushi and other Japanese delicacies.

The aim is to protect the atmosphere of the largest wholesale fish market in the world, and one that attracts thousands of visitors — Japanese and foreign alike — every year.

Proposals to move the ramshackle market to a new state-of-the-art facility on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay have been under discussion for several years, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is now pushing for the transfer to go ahead in the next 18 months.

Tsukiji covers 57 acres in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, handling 1 million tons of marine products, vegetables and fruit a year, worth around Y600 billion (RM22.98 billion). More than 90 per cent of the fish that is served up in the restaurants of Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto region passes through the hands of Tsukiji's legendary traders.

In the 70 years that it has stood on this site, there has been little in the way of dramatic change. Deals are done by men in colored caps that denote their company and using hand signals to make their bids. 

In the winter, they wear heavy-duty boots to keep their feet dry and are bundled up against the bitter wind that comes off the Sumida River.

The narrow alleyways between the stores are rutted and have a constant coating of crushed ice. Dented electric trolleys scoot through the narrow gaps with crates on their flat-beds while traders gaff a tuna carcass that is still coated with rime and strain to heave it onto a hand trolley.

It is a far cry from the facilities that will be at the new site.

Access to the market will be via five new bridges and a monorail that will connect with Tokyo's underground system. The island will stand some 6.5 metres above sea level and the plans include a 20-metre wide green belt.

The new market will be spread out over the reclaimed island and will also include a theme park with shops, museums and even a cooking school. — AFP-Relaxnews

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