From around 5 a.m. on Jan 5, Tokyo's central fish market in Toyosu was the scene of the traditionally boisterous hatsuseri -- the first wholesale auction of the new year.
That morning, 1,295 tuna were auctioned off, and a new record was set for the purchase of a 222-kilogram bluefin tuna, for which the winning bidder paid 333.6 million yen.
It was 15 months ago that Tokyo's aging central fish market at Tsukiji, Chuo Ward, closed its doors for good. As was the case with the transfer of Tokyo's international airport from Haneda to Narita in 1978, the move to Toyosu was controversial from the start and beset by delays and horrendous cost overruns. Toyosu had previously been utilized as a plant by Tokyo Gas, and after the new site was picked in 2008, environmental inspectors found it to have residues of lead, cyanogens, mercury, benzene and other toxic substances in excess of environmental standards.
About five months before the market's opening in November 2018, an investigative article appearing in Nikkan Gendai claimed that a boring survey, which is required to determine geological stability for building foundations, found serious problems that, among other things, would leave the buildings vulnerable to a major earthquake.
Now Nikkan Gendai (Jan 15) is cackling with schadenfreude, as it appears those previous warnings are coming true. This is what an informant at the Toyosu market confided: "The building has begun to make creaking noises as it warps."
A photo of a large pillar labeled C-03 inside the building, posted on an SNS on Jan 12, showed what appears to be a cave-in. In a second photo, the left side of a rear wall was pressed inward and the right side protruding, resulting in the two sides as looking "like a revolving door."
Asking a worker at the Toyosu market, the reporter was told, "The problem area was on the southwest side of the space where live fish are sorted and graded."
In the supplied photos, a residue of fragments of styrofoam and old wood chips could be seen, although there was nothing to indicate that anything heavy, such as a forklift, had collided with the wall.
"It was the first time for me to notice such big splits in the walls," said a person working at the market. "Before I'd seen cracks in the walls and floor, which had been attributed to settling of the substratum. This time people are saying the same thing about the new problems."
"Based on what I've been told, major cracks have developed in the flooring at the northeast end of the building adjacent to the area housing the refrigerated storage area, which is at a diagonal from the area you mentioned," Takashi Moriyama, an architectural economist, is quoted as saying.
He continues: "I suppose it's caused by the piles on the southwest side failing to be driven into the hard substratum, which is resulting in areas above the piles to sink, which in turn place a greater load in the direction of the diagonal -- which is why cracks are appearing there. Once just a part of a building begins to warp due to sinking, the next concern is damage to the pipes in the walls and electrical wiring.
"So detailed inspections will be needed to see if the sinking is likely to progress further," said Moriyama.
Since the move to the new fish market was rammed through by Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, that will ultimately be where the buck stops. But with the Olympics only months away, she's already got plenty of other headaches with which to contend. Will Koike intervene at Toyosu to prevent a major disaster? Or will she choose to tempt fate by taking no action until a tragedy occurs?© Japan Today