Tsukiji countdown: clock ticking on famed fish market

posted on November 1, 2015

Takashi Shibayama's typical day starts at 1 a.m. He wakes up, hurriedly throws on some clothes and sits down to eat the simple breakfast his wife prepares for him - a bowl of rice, miso soup and pickled Kishu ume.

His older brother, Shinichi, picks him up at 2 a.m. and, together, they travel to Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market to work in Shibasen, a family-owned intermediate wholesaler that was founded by Shibayama's grandfather and has been in operation for about 90 years.

The market is already in full swing when the brothers arrive, with traders unloading fish from vehicles by the dozen and turret trucks zipping between stores carrying piles of boxes full of seafood. While much of Japan is in a deep slumber, Tsukiji fish market is full of activity.

"This is Tsukiji," says Shibayama, 62. "I dream about fish. I start thinking about fish as soon as I get up. I look forward to thinking about what sort of fish I can find for my clients."

Tsukiji fish market is one of 11 wholesale markets in operation in Tokyo. Built in 1935, it is the oldest market in the city.

About 480 different varieties of fish and 270 varieties of fruit and vegetables are handled at the market on a daily basis. The market's vendors distribute produce that is sourced from not only all over Japan but also from other countries. The market never sleeps - it is open 24/7, with about 42,000 people and 19,000 vehicles going in and out everyday. On average, the market logs total daily sales of about ¥1.8 billion, with around 1,800 tons of fish and 1,160 tons of fruit and vegetables sold daily.

Tsukiji fish market has over the years become more than just a market - it has become a cultural landmark. Around a year from now, on Nov. 2, 2016, the market will close the doors on its 80-year history as it prepares to move to a new site in the Toyosu district of Tokyo's Koto Ward.

In announcing the Nov. 7, 2016, opening date of the new market, Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said the cultural legacy of Tsukiji must be continued. "The Tsukiji brand has become extremely well-established," Masuzoe told reporters during a July news conference. "I want to create a new market that is just as good."

source by japantimes
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