Tokyo, Day 2. Tsukiji fish market.
November 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm
It is 5.30am on a cold Tokyo morning and, in a wet warehouse, the head of a small man pops up above the crowd. A bell rings and the masses – exclusively men in their wellies – turn their heads to greet him. He waves his fist and starts to shout, easing into a rhythmic chant; “Nee-sen-nee-sen-nee-sen-nee-sen”. The crowd starts to buzz and then twinkle, flashlights blinking momentarily from one corner and then another to signal participation. The bell, still ringing, speeds up as the man on the platform strikes his best Superman pose once, twice, three times. As the bell reaches fever pitch and the man’s air-punching starts to resemble a popular 70s dance, the show stops as suddenly as it began and the crowd shuffles away.
Anywhere else this sight would be a curious, agriculture-based protest but in Tokyo, it’s just an average early morning auction in Tsukiji Fish Market. Here, the fishermen sell the best of their daily booty and the cream of the crop – tuna fish that often weighs upwards of 70lbs – is lined up along the concrete floor for vigorous examination before it falls under the hammer. The rest of the catch is sold individually or in bulk in the hundreds of stalls set up across the rest of the market. Fish so fresh that they wriggle in their carrier bags are perused by restauranteurs and sushi chefs while sword-yielding vendors slice, gut and behead their wares with the precision and skill of Samurai.
On the metro on the way in, while I was still picking the sleep out of my eyes, the thought of dodging motorised carts and squeltching through fish guts was not as appealing as you would imagine. All this changed though, when we stumbled into the fish market and a man with a hand cart sped by with a fat tuna fish that was longer than me and more closely related to a whale than that stuff you scoop out of a tin. In a front stall a man was casually whipping live fish out of a tank, chopping off their tales and slitting their necks with a heavy cleaver. As disgusting as it all should have been, the careless skill of the vendors along with the ferocious size of their stock (there were scallops as big as a fist and prawns that could take on a lobster) was completely absorbing and, as Gary hopped about with his camera, I had the greatest time wandering from stall to stall, totally invisible – fish guts or no fish guts.
Inevitably the fish market was followed by some epic sushi and tea in Sushi Zanmai. Day 2 in Tokyo – so far so good!
More photos from today can be seen on the gallery page.
Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: auction, BlogSherpa, fish market, fishermen, Japan, Tokyo, Tsukiji, tuna.