Last orders as Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji seafood market relocates

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At Tsukiji’s last New Year’s tuna sale, one buyer put down $320,000, but still far short of the record $1.8 million paid for a bluefin in 2013. (AFP)
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Above, a wholesaler at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, one of the vendors that sell 480 different types of seafood worth $14 million each day. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2018
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Last orders as Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji seafood market relocates

TOKYO: For decades, Tokyo’s Tsukiji market has been the beating heart of a world-class culinary capital, supplying Michelin-starred chefs and drawing tourists who queue for hours to glimpse pre-dawn tuna auctions.
But this week it will finally shut its doors and relocate from its dilapidated but central location to a new site in eastern Tokyo, after a lengthy and controversial process, hindered by pollution rows and construction delays.
Traders will sell their last wares at Tsukiji’s inner market on October 6, shutting up shop after one final tuna auction.
The mammoth move will begin the following day, with vendors expected to file out of the market in a mass exodus to the new site, where operations start on October 11.
The relocation has been in the works for decades, driven in part by the rundown quarters where vendors sell 480 different types of seafood worth $14 million each day.
This summer, a heatwave virtually overwhelmed the market’s outdated air conditioning, forcing wholesalers to keep pricey produce in cool trucks until moments before auction.
The market’s new location in Toyosu promises state-of-the-art facilities. Special doors will help keep halls cool and sterile, while gawping tourists will be confined to a viewing gallery behind glass.
For some vendors, the changes will be a welcome improvement from conditions at Tsukiji, where throngs of visitors interfering with the actual business of the market have irked wholesalers.
But the move also has its detractors, with concerns about everything from Toyosu’s location, far from clients, to pollution at the new site.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has championed the move, has been forced to repeatedly defend Toyosu after the discovery of soil contamination on the site, formerly home to a gas plant.
Officials say the pollution has been remedied but not everyone is convinced.
In the weeks before the move, hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the relocation, and legal challenges have been filed.
“The new site at Toyosu is not suitable for wholesalers. There are going to be a lot of problems,” said lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya.
Asunaro Suetake, another protester, said it was “strange to move the world’s biggest fish market to a polluted site, especially when the majority of fishmongers are opposed.”
Opened in 1935, Tsukiji is walking distance from the swanky Ginza district where some of Tokyo’s most famed restaurants are located.
The proximity has created a close relationship between vendors and fiercely exacting chefs seeking top quality products for restaurants sometimes boasting multiple Michelin stars.
Fishmongers fear they may lose clients with the move to the less accessible new site.
The relocation will also be something of a blow to tourists, who often lined up for hours to secure one of just 120 spots to view Tsukiji’s pre-dawn tuna auction.
Each New Year’s Day, high-profile buyers vied to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the top tuna at the first auction of the year.
At Tsukiji’s last New Year’s sale, one buyer put down $320,000, still far short of the record $1.8 million paid for a bluefin in 2013.
The so-called outer market at Tsukiji — brick-and-mortar shops selling everything from seaweed to coffee — will remain after the move.
But the warehouses that housed vendors and additional shops and restaurants are expected to be levelled to make way, initially, for a transport depot for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Beyond that, the site’s future is more uncertain, though Koike has suggested it could be transformed into a kind of culinary theme park, commemorating the market’s colorful history.
Yukari Sakamoto, author of Food Sake Tokyo, who has run tours of Tsukiji for over 10 years, said problems with the new site had left vendors frustrated.
“They all agree that the current site needs to be upgraded. But ... they should have rebuilt on the current location,” she said.
With the move just days away, “you do feel that sadness” in the market, she said.
“You’re thinking ‘oh wow, this is the end of an era’. It’s just so disappointing that it’s not ending on a positive note.”


Tired of feeling tired? Sleep deprivation exacts health toll in Saudi Arabia

According to a 2016 report from the not-for-profit research institute Rand Europe, sleep deprivation was directly related to lower productivity. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Tired of feeling tired? Sleep deprivation exacts health toll in Saudi Arabia

  • More than 1 billion people globally are believed to suffer from sleeping disorders for different reasons
  • According to the Sleep Cycle report no country achieved an average of eight hours sleep on a regular basis even though the recommended range of sleep for an adult is seven to nine hours a night

DUBAI: People in Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region are known for their love of evening socializing and late-night drives. What is less well-known is the high price being paid for this nocturnal lifestyle.
A 2015 report from the app Sleep Cycle placed Saudi Arabia second - after Japan - in the list of the world’s five worst countries for average sleeping hours.
In recent years medical universities in the Kingdom have chosen March to raise awareness about sleep disorders and the impact of sleep deprivation. Since 2008, March 7 has been observed as World Sleep Day by the World Sleep Society “to raise awareness of sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life.”
Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of several chronic diseases and conditions including hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, depression and cancer. Even so, the demands of modern society keep shortening the time available for rest.
More than 1 billion people globally are believed to suffer from sleeping disorders for different reasons.
According to the Sleep Cycle report no country achieved an average of eight hours sleep on a regular basis even though the recommended range of sleep for an adult is seven to nine hours a night.
The findings of a 2006 case study involving Saudi primary school students, from Dr. Ahmed BaHammam, Dr. Eiad Al-Faris and others at the Sleep Disorders Center at King Saud Medical University, were revealing.


The sample comprised 511 boys and 501 girls aged between 5 and 13. Results showed that daytime fatigue, at 37.5 percent, was the most prevalent sleep problem, followed by bedtime resistance at 26.2 percent and co-sleeping with parents at 12.4 percent.
Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director of The London Sleep Centre in Dubai, said mental disorders, including anxiety and depression, physical illness, lifestyle and age were major causes of sleep deprivation.
“Among them stress and lifestyle - particularly excessive use of smart devices - or long and odd working hours are something that disturbs sleep most these days,” he told Arab News.
He added that an average person spent about one-third, or approximately 27 years, of his or her lifetime sleeping, which is surprising given that the science of sleeping has only recently started getting attention.
A 2016 study from King Fahd Medical City revealed that 41 percent of Saudis suffered from some kind of sleep disorder. Ahmad Al-Badr, director of the sleep center, said the rate of sleep disorders in the Kingdom was the same as in neighboring countries.
The study, involving participants with the average age of 34, concluded that 55 percent of those affected were women, who are typically bigger victims of sleep deprivation compared to men.
But it appeared that the marital status and education level of participants had little to no effect on sleep deprivation. The study revealed that more than half of the participants slept less than six hours every day, mostly late at night.
It also revealed that people without jobs suffered from insufficient sleep more than working people. Diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes have adverse effects on sleep.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the major disorders that cause sleep-related difficulties are insomnia, narcolepsy, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea.
Al-Badr said patients with sleep deprivation and sleep disorders needed medical help, for which more awareness and counseling was necessary. “It also needs more training for workers in the health sector,” he told Arab News at the time of the study’s publication.
There is a shortage of sleep medicine specialists in the Kingdom and in the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Ebrahim. “The number of trained and qualified sleep medicine specialists in the Kingdom is reportedly 19 physicians located in a few hospitals in three major cities. This number is extremely low.” It is less than 5 percent per capita compared to the US.
“We need to reach out to the other specialties to demonstrate the importance of both theoretical and practical training in sleep medicine for trainees to be able to diagnose, treat and refer patients to sleep specialists if needed. In addition, it is hoped that medical schools will provide adequate education in sleep medicine.”
Dr. Sunil Vyas, a specialist at Aster Medical Hospital in Dubai, said lack of sleep should not be ignored as an urban lifestyle phenomenon. Every second patient he sees suffers from sleep deprivation, he said. “There are authentic reports that more than 50 percent of the UAE population suffers from at least one or more sleeping disorders, which is on a par with the global average in developing countries. This needs immediate attention,” he told Arab News.
“According to the (Sleep Cycle) report findings, short sleep duration was more prevalent in females. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, depression and asthma were among the most common medical problems reported due to lack of sleep.”
In 2017 Dr. Siraj Omar Wali told Arab News that insomnia clinics were needed in Saudi Arabia to help tackle the negative impact of sleep disorders.
Wali, a director of King Abdulaziz University Hospital’s (KAU) Sleep Medicine and Research Center, urged the establishment of treatment centers in the Kingdom.
Wali, who had been speaking at a course and workshop dedicated to sleeping disorders, said that a KAU study found that one in every 10 men and one in every 15 women suffered with obstructive sleep apnea, which relates to breathing problems during sleep.
But lack of sleep is not just a health issue. The cumulative effects of sleep deprivation affect a country's economy.
According to a 2016 report from the not-for-profit research institute Rand Europe, sleep deprivation was directly related to lower productivity, which resulted in a significant number of working days being lost every year.