National Geographic : 1995 Nov
Tsukiji-mura. Yes, we are all competitors. But we spend a lot of our lives in this crowded vil lage, and we need to get along." Like every Japanese mura, the small town called Tsukiji has a clear hierarchy. At the top of the pecking order are the employees of the seven major first-tier wholesalers, who buy up fish around the world and get them to Tokyo. The big seven, in turn, auction off the daily catch to more than a thousand middle wholesalers, who cut, package, and deliver the goods, sometimes to yet another tier of distributors, sometimes directly The Great Tokyo Fish Market to stores or sushi bars. There is a separate world of small businesses--knife sharpeners, boxmakers, bootsellers, and three dozen restaurants-on the site to serve the fishmongers. And yet the privileges of status at Tsukiji tend to yield to the fundamental Japanese social principles of harmony, community, and the avoidance of confrontation. I saw that one morning when I witnessed a traffic accident in the market. A rampaging ta-ray cart slammed into a bicycle. The biker was wearing the uniform of one of the seven top-tier firms; the While Tokyo slumbers, Tsukiji hustles as trucks deliver five million pounds of seafood enough to satisfy the region's tens of millions of fish-eaters for a single day. Tsukiji's styl ized logo (facing page) trans lates simply "fish riverbank," but merchants tout the 56 acre megamarket as Tokyo no daidokoro: Tokyo's pantry.