JAPAN: SOMETHING’S FISHY IN THE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT BUSINESS

MILES WHITTINGHAM WRITES — Japanese cuisine is among the most popular in the world. But the Japanese fish market has been hit especially hard among the multitude of things affected by COVID-19.  The most extensive wholesale fish trade located in Tokyo, Toyosu, has seen its sales halved in recent months.

But COVID-19 is not the lone culprit. Japanese seafood intake has steadily declined to the point that it, too, has contributed to the dip in sales in markets like Toyosu. This is because prior to coronavirus, the fish market had been located in Tsukiji. Business in central Tokyo was sufficient, but in 2018 over 600 merchants were forced to move, citing health and safety concerns. Since then, only about ⅓ of the usual consumers have come to the new location.

Tourism has of course declined, but the relocation of the major fish market has led to a serious decline in business. Talking to CTGN.com, Toshiyuki Kawame, a shop owner, stated that in part “Access is really bad. By public transport, it takes twice as much time to get here than it would to get to our old location in Tsukiji.” As a result, there has been a drop in profits from restaurants, while household consumption of fish has risen significantly.

A number of smaller-scale restaurants are fighting to stay open in Tokyo and its surrounding areas. Some sushi bars are finding creative ways to stay in business during this most unique time. These include shipping boxes of fish to customers to defrost for themselves or to offer delivery services.

With the nation’s capital set to host the Summer Olympics, Japan’s restaurateurs hope that tourists will help offset their substantial financial losses. In the meantime, Japanese fish sellers and consumers must continue to adapt their lifestyle and habits, like the rest of the world.

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