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Traders Smell Something Fishy in Tokyo Market Move

Just a short walk from some of Tokyo's most chic addresses, the smell of fish permeates the air. But not for long, if the government gets its way . In one of the most jarring scenes in Tokyo, fishmongers carry baskets loaded with their fresh catch at Tsukiji market, minutes away from the glitz of the Ginza district packed with luxury shops and corporate headquarters.

The world's largest fish market, which produces fresh sushi and sashimi flown daily to top restaurants the world over, has been in Tsukiji for seven decades, long topping must-see lists for first-time visitors to Tokyo. But Governor Shintaro Ishihara, re-elected in April with an overwhelming mandate, is set on evicting Tsukiji, where fishmongers rub shoulders with business commuters at the subway stop.

Ishihara, an outspoken nationalist known for his political determination, believes the market is an anachronism and wants to send the fishmongers packing by 2012 to a new waterfront development in Toyosu, a few kilometres (miles) away. He believes the land in cramped central Tokyo could be better used. He has proposed making the former fish market the main media centre for a potential 2016 Tokyo summer Olympics, the governor's pet project.

"The site is narrow, dangerous, not really clean, and asbestos is used in various spots in the facilities, although they are sealed up," Ishihara said in a recent news conference.

"What happens if a natural disaster occurs and asbestos scatters in the air? We have to deal with this issue by considering these problems." But many fishmongers are up in arms, saying that even if the new location is cleaner and more spacious, the move strikes at the heart of culture in the land of sushi.

"The relocation could destroy culinary culture as small middlemen may be forced out of the market. They may not be able to afford the higher fees to pay for the expensive facilities of the new market," said Makoto Noze, 69, the chairman of a wholesaler
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