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November 11, 2017 - Tsukiji's (Truly) Last Breath
Back in late-2015 I had published a travel report on what was supposed to be Tsukiji's last few months of operation. At that time, the move was to coincide with the redevelopment plans for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Two years later, I once again come to the realization that the move to Toyoso will take place. And this time, they mean it. I have mixed emotions about this move. On the one hand I am all for heritage conservation and to preserve the livelihood of the fish mongers and wholesalers, and not to mention the hundreds of chefs that descend upon the market. But I see the need for a new facility and to physically separate the workers from the unruly tourists.
This report is a tribute to the thousands of people who work in this market, and had been for generations.
These diesel powered jitneys will no longer be needed as the new facility will be greatly expanded in size and is more efficient.
What makes Tsukiji Market so famous to me is the food of course, but also the constant but organized conflicts between the employees of the Market and the tourists. From an architectural and urban landscape perspective, it is the mid 20th-century infrastructure with exposed wires linking all buildings, and the thousands of wasted styrofoam boxes that are strewn everywhere.
But sushi is not the only food offered at the Market. I have been to Tsukiji enough times that I don't want sushi here. I stake out the stuff locals eat. They are not only cheap and cheerful, they are also delicious and unpretentious. Here is one such location which specializes in Japanese curry.
Inside the layout is very traditional and despite the small space, every inch is used. The patrons as you can see are men, older, and local. There are employees of the market interspersed with those wearing suit jackets. One thing in common here is they all speak Japanese. It is so easy to be lost in translation but this is where the best experience you will have.
And with the move, this restaurant operator will have to relocate, or shut down. I was saddened by this as I will never have their amazing curry again.
Of all the dishes I could have, I wanted the most touristy dish, which is the seafood curry. Loads of curry sauce, it is dotted with lots of seafood like shrimp, squid, crab, and scallop. Although all slightly overcooked, they were so delicious. Lots of rice and cabbage to soak the curry up.
The Market will officially close in October 2018, days before I am scheduled to return to Japan. I would like to personally thank each and every generations of workers over the decades for providing fresh seafood to all of us for consumption. We take for granted that fresh fish is so readily available in Tokyo.
We (cautiously) welcome Toyoso and the new home of these fish mongers and wholesalers.