Tsukiji shops braced for change
THE Tsukiji market has 80 years of history, but with the relocation of the wholesale market in several years' time, the adjacent Tsukiji outer market, home to many sushi restaurants and food shops, is making strenuous efforts to ensure its survival.
The Tsukiji market moved from Tokyo's Nihonbashi district to its current location in Chuo Ward in the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
The Tsukiji market, known as "jonai shijo", or the inner market, has become a world-class fish market. The "jogai shijo", or the Tsukiji outer market, has a variety of shops selling food and cooking tools. The two markets have been doing well through the years.
Few know the difference between "jonai shijo" and "jogai shijo". Proving this point, a 28-year-old female company employee from Yokohama said: "I thought the entire market complex was going to relocate."
Now the outer market faces the challenge of fostering its own unique brand after the Tsukiji market relocates.
The Tsukiji market is going to be relocated to the Toyosu district of Koto Ward about 2.3km away.
"We've been developing our business, thanks to demand from those gathering around the (Tsukiji) market," said Akio Suzuki, 66, the third-generation president of Torito, a chicken meat shop that has been doing business in the outer market for about 80 years.
"The two markets have been maintaining a relationship of co-existence and co-prosperity."
There are about 400 shops in the roughly 50,000 sq m area.
The outer market sees an average of more than 20,000 visitors a day, including many tourists and company employees working in the neighbourhood.
"I was really anxious as the outer market will be left behind," said Mr Suzuki.
As part of a promotion campaign, a new facility called Tsukiji Food Town Studio was opened in November in the outer market.
The facility is equipped with an open kitchen, where the public and visiting chefs can check out and sample, for example, seaweed sold in the outer market. There is even a workshop run by a tamagoyaki shop chef who teaches participants how to cook a Japanese omelette like the pros.
In October, a new section, tentatively called A Market of Fishing Ports Nationwide, will be opened in the outer market, to feature shops selling fresh fish straight from Hokkaido, Shizuoka, Nagasaki and other parts of the country.
The Chuo Ward Office will also support the outer market, by spending about 3 billion yen (S$36.7 million) to build a new facility tentatively named Tsukiji New Market. About 90 fish, and fruit and vegetable shops will serve as intermediate wholesalers for small-lot customers.
"The outer market has a good selection of items that impresses professional chefs, as well as a wealth of knowledge," said Hotaka Katahira, 66, a representative of Marunouchi Brand Forum, a market research group that has been supporting the outer market.
"I hope the outer market will further enhance its attractiveness and lead Japan's food culture."
YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK