Haiku reflections on Japan

The すいじ of sushi

A man`s love for his

work in preparing sushi

should inspire many

Well into his eighties and he still never tires of the art of making sushi (the art of cooking is what すいじ means).    Jiro dreams of Sushi (2011) is a lovely documentary where they spoke with most of the people involved in the business, directly or indirectly – a food critic, the tuna dealer at the hectic Tsukiji market, the rice dealer, his staff including his elder son who will take over one day (his younger son has his own sushi shop but also trained as an apprentice under his father) and of course the man himself, Jiro Ono, who has been making sushi since the age of 10.   It would be amazing to eat in his shop, despite the intimidating atmosphere that some of the people mentioned, stating that his son`s shop was more relaxed.   I would have liked to hear if he ever had any problems with customers or if he ever refused anyone.    People who have the money to eat there may not necessarily be the most well-mannered.  I was pleased to hear his views on tuna fishing stating, if I remember correctly, that there is a serious case of overfishing and there is less good fish available as a result. No whales were mentioned so I wonder how he felt about that.  Really good documentary overall and I don`t think I have ever seen anyone so happy with their line of work.

Hearing about Tsukuji market again made me want to look up more about it, as I never really thought of going there when I visited Tokyo (I was only there a couple of days and was with a friend who took me to other places).    I read that the bulk of the market was to be moved between 2013 and 2014 out of this area of Tokyo and into the Koto area (which already houses a related section of the market along with another one in Kanda).   Most of the retail stalls are going to stay in the Tsukiji area and I think the dealership area will move.  Has that happened yet anyone?    It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to get to the original Tsukuji market in its entirety while it`s still there (well as much of its entirety as people are allowed to explore) but 2014 is almost over and I don`t see myself getting there this year.

Understandably, the large number of  tourists visiting has caused a bit of a fuss in recent years and I can kind of understand that.  It may be an amazing treasure trove to foodie tourists but it is a regular place for all the people who work there (or who go to buy their fish for their restaurants) and have to get on with their work.   I hope this comment does not go against me some day!!    Tourists are now only allowed to go in certain numbers (120 people max per day, or  should I say morning as it is mostly closed by 11am) and on a first come first served basis.   And they`re still not allowed into the fish dealership area (if they ever were, I can`t remember).   Fair enough as it is just more fish really and the documentary gives you a good idea of what happens there anyway.  That said, how do you tell the difference between a tourist and a gaijin who happens to live in Tokyo and has only just got around to coming to visit it?

Speaking of fish markets, there`s a pretty impressive one in Hakodate as well (nowhere near the scale of Tsukuji which is the largest in the world).  I remember going there.  They`re big into squid (いか) in Hakodate which I have to admit I didn`t really take to.  Below is a picture of the entrance to the market.

 

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