The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tsukiji Fish Market

I haven't updated this thing in quite a while. I moved, and started working, and have been doing some martial arts occasionally, but that's about it. So there wasn't much to report on, but last weekend I finally got out of the house and did something.

Some of my co-workers planned a trip to Tsukiji, the fish market which handles most of the incoming fish to Japan. It's the largest fish market in the world, and is a bustling place full of activity that starts early in the morning and is mostly finished by noon. For some reason, it appears in almost every tourist guidebook to Tokyo as a great place to visit, which has always struck me as a bit strange. For one thing, maybe it IS the biggest fish market in the world, but honestly ... who cares? For another thing, it is primarily a workplace, and I always figured that tourists would just be in the way. It seems a very tourist-y thing to do to just barge in and watch someone (who would prefer that you weren't there at all) go about their livelihood. I can't imagine that tourists would want to visit the stockyards in Chicago, even though (maybe) it is the largest beef slaughterhouse in the world. Nor would they be welcome.

But anyway, I decided it might be interesting, and I really wanted to eat the sushi there, so I woke up early on Saturday morning and met my co-workers. 9 of us showed up, and off we went to check out the market.

As I said, it's really not an appropriate place for tourists. There is nowhere to stand, and everywhere you go you are in the way. If you try to stand in the parking lot, within 20 seconds, a truck wants to park where you are standing. If you stand in the aisles of the market itself, you are blocking traffic of these little one-man motorized carts that zoom around everywhere. Even if you just stand in front of a stall, if you're not buying anything, you will be shooed away with a call of, "Sorry, but this is a place of business!"

There was a lot of interesting stuff, to see though. This is where dealers auction off their tuna. A single tuna fish can go for a lot of money, as tuna is probably the most prized fish for sushi, particularly if it has a lot of fat on it. Personally, I don't like fatty tuna; I tend to prefer the cheap stuff.

The market itself is enormous, and stretches farther than the eye can see in every direction. Ironically, it doesn't really smell like fish. I guess it's because all the fish is so fresh that it isn't given any time at all to spoil. This is the best reason for coming to Tsukiji - eating the freshest possible sushi. (I will always assert that I ate even fresher sushi when I was living in Ikitsuki - fish caught within the hour, brought 50 metres from the boats directly to an expert sushi chef, and served on top of new rice, harvested right on the island, with connoisseur-grade soy sauce, also made special on the island. But I don't expect any Tokyoites to believe that better sushi can be obtained elsewhere!)

All kinds of fish and shellfish are one display. A lot of the clams and oysters are huge, and there are lots of varieties that I've never seen before, let alone know the English name of.

The orange stuff above is urchin, or "uni". To be more precise, it is the ovaries of a sea urchin. A lot of the urchin eaten in Japan is actually harvested in Canada, since we don't eat the vile stuff. You can also find little red squid about as big as your thumb...

And bushels and bushels of little white minnows, which are either served on top of rice or put in soups, I gather.

After the fish market, it was time for some sushi for breakfast. By this time it was about 9:30, so a beer also seemed appropriate.

The sushi was very, very good, and very fresh, but had a bit too much wasabi.

After breakfast, since it was such a beautiful day, we went to nearby Hamarikyu park. It was built by the Shogun centuries ago and was the private park for his own enjoyment. One wonders what he would think of the construction surrounding the park now.

The plum blossoms were in full bloom, which was wonderful. The Japanese really go crazy for cherry blossoms, but I think plums are almost as nice.

Just beside the park there is a very famous building designed in the 60's by a leading Japanese architect, (now deceased) named Kisho Kurokawa. All the modules are self-contained and are bolted to each other with only a couple fixed bolts. Each module is designed to be removable. Unfortunately, despite being a famous and historically-important building, the structure itself has fallen into disrepair and badly needs to be cleaned up.

I dunno much about architecture (especially not modern architecture) but I know what I like. Godzilla! Now we're talking. This statue was in Ginza somewhere...

I killed a couple of hours in Ginza, and then went to see "No Country For Old Men" which had just opened here. It was awesome! I guess Javier Bardem, who plays the inhumanly cold killer Anton Chigurh in the film, had been in Tokyo last week to do some publicity for the movie, and signed this life-size standup which was in the lobby. Pretty cool.

So anyway, weeks of activity and then, suddenly, a very busy day out of the blue. I managed to get a sunburn in mid-March, which really sucked, but it was fun anyway. I was glad I went; even if we weren't really welcome in Tsukiji, it was good to see a bit of history before it gets dismantled and moved. The plan is to move it somewhere else next year (?). Even so, at the rate the Japanese are over-fishing the oceans, the whole thing might disappear in a few decades...


At 6:43 PM, Blogger ted said...

Hey Jeff,

I once spent half a day looking for that rumored Godzilla statue, and then accidently stumbed across as I made a frantic, drooly dash toward the Starbucks nearby. (I was still living in the sticks back then, so...)

Did you make it to the seminar this month? I decided to give it a miss, my first pass in a decade. I thought, Ryukyu Kobudo? I don't even use my faming tools on my yard, let alone my adversaries...


At 5:13 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your comments. I didn't go to the seminar this year, for a few reasons. Lack of money was foremost, but lack of interest in Okinawan Kobudo was another big one. If they have a sword art next year, maybe I'll go!

How is everything with you? Have I ever told you how much better your Blog is than mine? You can really write; I'm envious.

Where are you living these days? Still in Kyoto?


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