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Tokyo's Classic Wooden Architecture Added to World Monuments Watch

Has the Tokyo Olympics been one of the worst in terms of respecting architecture, both cutting-edge and classic? Between the demolition of the landmark Hotel Okura (to make way for a bigger, better hotel for the 2020 games) and the dismissal of Zaha Hadid's scheme for the new Tokyo Olympic Stadium (based on projected cost overruns), the event hasn't scored many points with preservationists and designers (we'll skip the logo problems). And now, with the World Monument Fund listing the wooden architecture of the city's iconic Tsukiji district on its 2016 World Monuments Watch list of endangered sites, it appears one more landmark may be threatened.

The Tsukiji district, home to the popular fish market that's made the area a Bourdain-approved symbol of Tokyo's culinary culture, has a reputation as a survivor. The wooden buildings, seemingly out of place in the modern metropolis of Tokyo, arose from the rubble of the great 1923 earthquake that devastated much of central Tokyo, becoming the city's central food market. Many of the original structures survived repeated American bombing raids during WWII, and generations of family-run businesses have lasted decades, even during the era of supermarket consolidation.

But it appears that the structures won't survive a pre-Olympic development boom, especially considering their central location. A government-sponsored relocation of the famous fish market, a move to a reclaimed island called Toyosu expected to cost $4.5 billion, opens up the area to real estate speculation, which has led to protests by local workers and cries that government is favoring developers over some of Tokyo's iconic landmarks. Scheduled to finish next spring, the relocation is a done deal, but perhaps the move can galvanize support for the remaining structures in this historic district.

"Tsukiji was the beating heart of the sushi culture that spread across the world," Kazuki Kosaka, a former local representative, told The New York Times. "And now it will be redeveloped into condominiums."

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