Return to Tsukiji
Last week Marina and I visited that pulse-pounding world of never-ending dead animals from the sea, the Tsukiji Fish Market. Actually, I think the market has become my favorite place in Tokyo. Not only can you get the freshest and best sushi in the city, usually for a not-unreasonable price, but there's something about the place that feels traditional. Part of that has to do with the shrine that sits right behind the market; we caught a morning ritual being performed by priests. I'm curious about the ritual's significance, it looked like they were taking wooden boxes and stools, moving them around and passing them between each other. But mostly, the appeal of Tsukiji is that there is little or no "advanced capitalism," as Haruki Murakami might put it; just rampant, unadultered selling. Buy this dead fish. Buy that live one. Here's one somewhere in-between. No fancy five-story video screens, no bleached-and-tanned teeny-bopper twits. No Smap blaring at you from all sides. No part of Tsukiji exempifies this better than the fish auction. We caught a little bit of it, and it seemed to consist of a gaggle (or should that be a school?) of fishmongers crowding around rows of frozen tuna carcasses. The auctioneer quickly shouts out some vitals pertaining to a particular fish, raising his hand. Somebody from the crowd shouts back. The auctioneer shouts again, lowers his hand, and moves on. There's brisk business to be done at 6:30 a.m. at Tsukiji, and as soon as a fishmonger has his fish - invariably his, since they're all men - the body gets loaded onto a wooden cart and dragged off. Although the auction moves briskly, the volume of tuna carcasses shouldn't be underestimated. There's only so much shouting over a dead tuna body before the craving to eat the tuna becomes overwhelming, so we headed off to get an excellent sushi breakfast.