With the impending Tokyo Olympics looking to demolish the current site by 2016, we wanted to see Tsukiji Fish Market before this ritual of Tokyo life was completely bulldozed.
On our first trip to Tokyo, we weren’t able to get ourselves out of bed early enough to make it to the tuna auctions and so we did not see Tsukiji.
On our second trip, we still couldn’t get up early enough to make it to the tuna auctions, but we still showed up earlier than the market technically opened. We played live-action Frogger across an insanely active intersection and found ourselves being politely turned away from the market by a security guard.
On our third trip, we said screw the rules and just showed up when we felt good and ready. We were going to see Tsukiji Fish Market before it disappeared altogether, dammit.
The outskirts of Tsukiji Fish Market are a series of streetside vendors much like anywhere else in Japan. The real chaos begins once you enter the warehouse sections– it’s like the Koopa kingdom in the Super Mario Brothers movie. Or the underground place in Demolition Man.
The alternating high and low ceilings, Styrofoam boxes stacked two stories high and rows upon rows of slimy, weird-smelling terrors from the deep, meticulously sliced to bits and packaged by cigarette-chomping men with long knives–not to mention the blood covering everything–make it seem like the sort of underground place one would go to purchase human children for sacrifice, or, at best, a crate full of AK-47s.
We made a game out of taking pictures of workers smoking while handling food. Health codes are overrated; everybody knows the best food is prepared by scruffy dudes who smoke in the kitchen and ignore all sanitary procedure.
Tsukiji Fish Market is scheduled to be demolished in order to make way for luxury condominiums. The site of the new Tsukiji is located on property that was previously deemed uninhabitable due to toxic conditions in the soil, so we’ll see what happens to the cancer rates in the next few decades.