Ishihara again says he is not responsible for choice of new fish market site

TOKYO —

Former Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara reiterated Monday his claim that he was not responsible for the choice of a contaminated former gas production site to relocate the famous Tsukiji fish market.

“This has been decided in a flow directed by the entire metropolitan government. It was impossible to go against it,” Ishihara told a committee of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly looking into the controversial relocation plan, repeating his previous assertion.

Speaking as a sworn witness to the committee, the 84-year-old former governor said the plan for relocation to the Toyosu waterfront district was among pending issues he took over from his predecessor in 1999 when he assumed the governorship.

Although Ishihara said he was responsible for giving final approval for the project as head of the metropolitan government, he said he left the actual negotiations to subordinates, in response to a question about the decision-making process.

Ishihara was the main person among more than 20 sworn witnesses summoned or to be summoned by the special committee that could impose prosecution for perjury in case of false testimony.

The committee focused on why the former gas plant site was chosen and how the land purchase was negotiated but the novelist-turned-politician did not fully answer those questions, repeatedly saying he “cannot recall the details” or “does not remember.”

Among several potential relocation sites, the city government selected the land in the Toyosu waterfront area that was formerly used as a gas production site of Tokyo Gas Co, reaching a basic agreement on the relocation plan in July 2001.

Although the new market was initially scheduled to open last Nov. 7 with buildings and necessary facilities completed, Gov Yuriko Koike, who assumed the post in August, decided to halt the move due to concerns over soil and air pollution there.

Ishihara also repeated his call for relocation of the aging Tsukiji market, which also deals in vegetables and flowers, without further delay, criticizing Koike’s reservation.

“It is incomprehensible that the relocation has not been realized when even scientists are saying Toyosu (market) is safe,” Ishihara said.

“Koike should be held responsible for failure to act,” he added, referring to running costs for the unused facility in the Toyosu area over which concerns linger about toxic materials in soil.

In response to Ishihara’s remarks, Koike said she decided to postpone the relocation based on the soil contamination standards set by the Ishihara administration. “It’s not that I’m raising the bar” for the relocation, she added.

The Tokyo government said Sunday that benzene at up to 100 times the national government-set safety limit had been detected in groundwater samples taken at the Toyosu site, putting more pressure on Koike, who has to make a decision whether to go ahead with the relocation plan that has cost her government a total of 588.4 billion yen.

While Ishihara was in the office, the metropolitan government decided as one of the criteria for the relocation that the groundwater of the new site should not exceed the allowable limits for drinking water set by the Environment Ministry.

During the summoning, Ishihara said it may have “set the bar too high,” but, nevertheless, Koike should push for relocation for the sake of the people of Tokyo, regardless of the standards.

Ishihara was questioned about the snowballing costs of dealing with contamination at the Toyosu facility. Although the total is estimated at 86 billion yen, Tokyo Gas is shouldering only 7.8 billion yen in line with an agreement signed under Ishihara in 2011.

As in a press conference on March 3, Ishihara denied involvement in the contract, saying he left the negotiations with Tokyo Gas to Takeo Hamauzu, then deputy governor and a close aide, and that he did not receive detailed reports from Hamauzu.

“I ratified the (relocation) plan after confirming that safety measures for the (contaminated) soil would be taken,” Ishihara said, adding he cannot recall receiving reports about the agreement with the gas company on such measures or the cost sharing for them.

The session on Monday was shortened to about 80 minutes from three hours, as initially planned, at Ishihara’s request citing his health.

The committee plans to call on April 4 three former senior officials of the metropolitan government who were involved in the negotiations with Tokyo Gas.

With the committee still looking into the facts surrounding the relocation plan, it is unclear how the process could help determine the fate of the fish market relocation.

A member of the assembly who requested anonymity said, “We should have set up the committee after narrowing down the matter in question and obtaining evidence, but we’ve rushed too much.”

Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihiro Katayama termed it too late for the special committee to sufficiently investigate the issue because it should have been probed by the assembly when the relocation budget was approved.

“The metropolitan assembly should reflect on itself” for not seeing that Ishihara did not have proper control over bureaucrats in the Tokyo government, Katayama said.

© KYODO

  • 16

    GW

    Yeah, he is not responsible for anything he did wrong!!

    YEAH RIGHT, cuff him!

  • 4

    BertieWooster

    Ishihara says he's not responsible.

    That's OK then.

    Must be somebody else.

  • 8

    gogogo

    Although Ishihara said he was responsible for giving final approval for the project as head of the metropolitan government, he said he left the actual negotiations to subordinates

    Seriously? Those "subordinates" were just doing what they were told to do.

  • 14

    Disillusioned

    Although Ishihara said he was responsible for giving final approval for the project as head of the metropolitan government, he said he left the actual negotiations to subordinates, in response to a question about the decision-making process.

    Sorry Ishihara, this means you are responsible! You can try to point the blame on any direction you like, but you are ultimately responsible. If you didn't know about the status of the toxic clean up you are still responsible. You had the top job and signed off on it. You are responsible!

  • 8

    Patricia Yarrow

    Koike is going to win this one. Ishihara is just pathetic. Can we get on with rebuilding Jonai in place and keep this unique and functioning quite well 80-year old center of Japan's food? Jeez Louise. Enough already, Ishihara.

  • 7

    Reckless

    time to play the dementia card,,,

  • 10

    Robert Dykes

    "It was impossible to go against it" The words of a true leader.

  • -20

    sanjigen

    Amazing how this whole thing is turning out to be nothing but a witch hunt for Ishihara.

    Thought they wanted to find out why the basement was built instead of filling and who was responsible for the change in plan, find out why the cost have risen over time and why it wasn't made clear for the people; not a blame game.

    Where's the rage towards Koike who created this mess by claiming Toyosu to be unsafe when there's no safety issue which she finally admitted after six months time (during which tax payer money is spent just on maintenance but the cost is still a mystery because Koike won't reveal it; yeah so much for the transparency). And because she doesn't want to take the blame, claims that there's no 'peace of mind' now, although she's to be blamed for that too by linking underground water testing with safety when it's just a conspiracy. If underground water is that important of an issue, why not test it at Tsukiji too? instead of telling us that it's not required at Tsukiji because there's no such clause or requirement.

  • 6

    Scrote

    sanjigen: It's all political posturing before the Tokyo elections. Once they are over the market will be moved to Toyosu. I look forward to hearing Koike explain how the polluted groundwater suddenly isn't important after all.

  • 8

    gaijinpapa

    “This has been decided in a flow directed by the entire metropolitan government. It was impossible to go against it,”

    For those not familiar with Japan, remember this statement well. It sums up a lot of what is wrong with Japanese culture., So.... it's Mr Nobody.

    Remember watching a TV show about WW2, where they were trying to find out why Japan went to war. The conclusion? It was nobody's fault . It just - went that way and couldn't be stopped.

    Hilarious hearing the powerful Ishihara saying it was impossible to stop.

  • 7

    presto345

    And who is responsible for voting this clown into office?

  • 6

    smithinjapan

    He was the top figure and signed off -- he's responsible. He can blame other all he wants, and the guy who wrote "The Japan that said 'NO'" can claim it "was impossible to go against it" all he wants, but he took the papers either knowing or not knowing what they contained, and signed for the okay. He bears the ultimate responsibility. Period.

  • 4

    pudus

    "the guy who wrote "The Japan that said 'NO'" can claim it ""

    "ime to play the dementia card,,,"

    and bring out the box of kleenex

  • 2

    Cricky

    So the head of Tokyo has no say, just a yes man...? He had no say. Voting is obviously a lost cause. I have to thank him for not overseeing so many lost making business decisions that benefited his friends and himself.

  • 3

    IloveCoffee

    It is in their culture to avoid taking responsibility, and deny any wrong doings.

  • 3

    NewsLover

    Ishihara is becoming a real sad man.

    He signed, and his signature (or hanko) is his responsibility. Him leaving it up to others and now trying to hide behind those others is really childish.

    As a leader you are responsible of anything that happens under your leadership. The way he walks though, it says it all, once in power, always in power.

    Go Koike.

    Latest results are not better so he bought some bad piece of ground, his decision to sign the final deal. Him saying that Koike should ignore all the pollution means he never had anything with the people whom voted him in office.

  • 5

    Dan Lewis

    Just watched him on tv. He says he can't remember kanji or even hiragana and so can't remember answers to questions (to questions he doesn't want to answer, no doubt!)

  • 5

    NewsLover

    he's pathetic, that was the word I was looking for before..

  • 1

    bruinfan

    He will therefore go down badly in history, however he is dealt with.

  • 3

    John Becker

    Unless he forced this site to be chosen in the interest of enriching a friend or donor, his responsibility is only that the site selection happened on his watch.

    Want to go after Ishihara for something? Try this:

    Although the total is estimated at 86 billion yen ($764.20 million), Tokyo Gas is shouldering only 7.8 billion yen in line with an agreement signed under Ishihara in 2011.

  • 4

    100 CPM

    " Although Ishihara said he was responsible for giving final approval for the project as head of the metropolitan government, he said he left the actual negotiations to subordinates, in response to a question about the decision-making process.

    So he is responsible for the outcome as well...

  • 4

    hatsoff

    Were any ex-Japan big wigs part of the Tokyo Gas board at the time. Ishihara's in neck deep but this sounds like it could have been an old boys' club deal with Tokyo Gas paying a paltry sum for cleaning up the site.

  • 3

    MsDelicious

    “She should be held responsible for failure to act,” referring to running costs for the unused relocation facility in the Toyosu area over which concerns linger about toxic materials in soil.

    Is he joking or losing it?

  • 8

    gogogo

    I think he means it was impossible to change it because the bribes had already been paid.

  • 5

    Aly Rustom

    Lock him up!

  • 6

    Citizen2012

    When was the last time a Japanese politician responsible of any of their wrongdoings ?

  • 5

    GW

    If they make the move to Toyosu, I hope they LABEL all fish etc that pass through its doors along with the actual origin of the fish etc.

    With this sitting on a highly toxic waste site, SORRY, I just DO NOT believe they can keep the toxins out of the food, TIJ & you can bet many are STILL playing this down & will not take responsibility like ishihara down the line when the you know what hits the fan

    Label it I saw so I can CHOOSE to buy or not!

  • 6

    Goodlucktoyou

    When Abe quit last time amongst corruption and the worst possible popularity, he said he had a stomach ache. I'm sure Ishihara knows that. He was supposed to appear for 3 hours, but the panel let him go after 80 mins. The smug smile on his face when he left tells all.

  • 1

    Alex Einz

    well its the same guy that managed to somehow avoid being implicated in aum shinrikyo scandal... as sad as it is .. he will find a way to get out of this one as well...

    According to politician Kōichi Hamada, Ishihara gave financial and political support to Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult that was involved in several murders and assassination attempts during the early 1990s.[15] Immediately after the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, Ishihara dropped out of national politics, suddenly ending a 25-year career in the Diet.

  • 0

    Patricia Yarrow

    Let us return to the original plan to simply rebuild the wholesale/jonai area in place. This will also allow the social and business relationships to continue that are such a part of this unique institution. Go go go Koike!

  • -1

    Kichgai Fungoo

    Team work is essential, you can always blame on other team members. Japan needs to stop acting like socialist country, ops sorry Japan is a socialist country, where sheep behave like a good sheep, I’m just a follower not a leader. Contractors’ loves deep pocket government contract just few million more, just few million more is the mantra of contractor and politician love to spend tax payers money.

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