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The last days of Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場

Nigel Morris-Co...

Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market closes for the last time in October 2018. The last trade-only auction that allowed in visitors was on 15th September. The last full trading session was on the 6th October. Nigel Morris-Cotterill photographed the wholesale market and the "outer market" in the last days before the wholesale market was closed.

It's gone, now, the daily hustle and bustle of a giant fish market. All business is being transferred to a new market away from the famous Ginza district which has grown up, super smart, alongside the market founded in 1935, built after an earthquake flattened large parts of Tokyo in 1923.

There are no ugly women in Ginza. It's an interesting place full of well dressed, obviously relatively wealthy inhabitants and remarkably few cars. There are the usual suspects of the kind of high-street shops that inhabit only very expensive, one might say "high-end", streets, with more shop assistants, some wearing white gloves, than customers.

Small independent shops sit alongside ultra-glossy showrooms for international brands. In what initially look like department stores, there are more independent companies specialising in not very second-hand "designer" bags at enormous discounts against their prices new and vintage watches. There's an area incongruously dominated by western-style bridal gowns.

The area is characterised by the Kabukiza Theatre. It is directly connected to Narita Airport by comfortable trains and there are two metro stations. Moving just a few hundred metres from the Theatre, in a situation that is reminiscent of London's former market district (there was Spitalfields, Covent Garden, Billingsgate) before they were forced out-of-town to modern, horrible, sheds where facilities were vastly improved but the atmosphere, the soul, was lost. The feeling that this is like London is compounded by the Toyota Hybrid JPN Taxi that closely resemble the famous Black Cabs - and for my entire time there, persistent rain.

I've been in an industrial shed that was waiting for the lights to go out before. I was there when the last ship built on the River Tees was launched, the banging of the hammers as the chocks were knocked out sounding like the tolling of the bell for an industry that had fed, clothed and generally looked after generations; as the ship slipped into the river, the drag chains followed, clanking, like the chains of medieval captives in their last moments before execution. The feeling that something great died that day was surprisingly close as I walked into the market.

Or would have been if I hadn't been stopped by a man in uniform who smiled a lot and waved and then, giving up his attempts to communicate with a rain-sodden Englishman, held up a notice: "no entry to visitors before 11 a.m.." it said. It was 06:45, dark and pissing down.


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