The relocation of Tsukiji fish market later this year might spell doom for the few remaining early 20th Century buildings that are scattered throughout the Tsukiji neighborhood.
Following the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and subsequent reconstruction, the Tsukiji area became an important commercial center in Tokyo. The fish market opened in 1935, solidifying Tsukiji’s position as a vital trade area. The merchant houses that were build in the area during this period were mostly small wooden structures, two stories in height, and designed for both commercial and residential use – typically with a business on the ground floor and living quarters above it. Some were build in the more traditional machiya style, shown above, while many were examples of kanban kenchiku – a more modern style with decorative façades, as pictured below.
Although many areas of Tokyo suffered extensive damage during World War II bombings, Tsukiji emerged from WWII relatively unscathed. But rapid economic growth post WWII caused the majority of these early 20th century buildings to be demolished, replaced by modern high rises and condos. So, sadly, very few of these merchant houses, which have no official legal protection, remain today.
With the impending Tsukiji market relocation and redevelopment of that land, it is a safe bet that property values for the entire neighborhood will skyrocket, creating further incentive to demolish these charming old buildings.