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Traders Smell Something Fishy in Tokyo Market Move

s' group opposing the relocation plan. "We don't have any problems doing business here. In contrast, we'll face problems of water shortages and an expected rise in facility fees, in addition to the worst problem -- land pollution -- at the new address," he said.

The new site is owned by Tokyo Gas Co., which revealed in 2001 that the area was polluted with deadly cyanogen and arsenic. "How can we move to land heavily polluted by cyanogen and arsenic? We, people who deal with fish, one of the staples for the Japanese," Noze said.

The Tokyo government promised to replace polluted soil with fresh earth to a depth of 4.5 metres (15 feet) and says the problem has been solved. But faced with fierce opposition, Ishihara pledged in March -- in the midst of his campaign for a third four-year term -- to reinvestigate possible land pollution. While Ishihara stands by the 2012 move date, the schedule has been delayed.

The government was supposed to pick a contractor in March for the relocation but delayed it due to the new probe of potential pollution, said Kenya Tanaka, a senior official of the Tokyo Metropolitan government. -- No more buying fish by bicycle -- Opponents also complain about poorer access to the new site by subway and train and point out that the periphery area of middlemen dealers, or "off-Tsukiji," would be pulled apart from the main market under the relocation. "I wonder what would happen to small buyers who come here by bicycle and drop in at several middlemen traders," said Masayuki Uchiyama, 54, an intermediate wholesaler who buys and sells frozen fish. Indeed, about two-thirds of the middlemen have no plans to move out with the main market, according to Akio Suzuki, president of the off-Tsukiji merchant association.

Owners of the fish shops and restaurants who are the market's major customers, also say they could feel the pinch. But the move has supporters, who say the fish market needs more modern facilities and must chang
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