I lived in Tokyo for about a year from ’99 to 2000, but somehow never visited the Tsukiji Fish Market, though I realize now it wasn’t far off the route I took to work every day. I even lived near Tokyo Bay.
Anyway, on my recent multi-day stopover in Tokyo, I finally did it. I got one of the first trains of the morning over to the market. I was advised to go straight to the back end as early as possible if I wanted to catch any of the auctions of giant tuna.
I thought about editing this footage into some kind of proper film, even an educational one, and I might yet, but for now I think raw footage tells the story.
Plus, the market has been extremely well-documented in recent years, so I didn’t think further explanation was needed.
If you want to read up more on the market, besides Wikipedia, here’s a few links:
- book: The Fish Market at the Center of the World
- Vanity Fair article by Nick Tosches
- I know I’ve seen a few good videos with Tsukiji scenes on Vimeo. Here is one.
Update: I saw the Cove the other day. If you’ve seen it, you might recognize the lengthy Tsukiji tuna auction time lapse scenes 2/3rds of the way through the movie. In the years, there’s obviously a lot more questions about how long this tuna trade can be sustained. It’s truly boggling to think of this amount of huge fish being caught every day.
Shinjuku Station, in central Tokyo, is said to be the busiest train station in the world. In 2007, the station was used by an average of 3.64 million passengers per day. The station has more than 200 exits. On Wednesday November 21st, 2007, around 8 PM, I filmed one of these exits for exactly 1 minute.
A few observations about this minute: Nobody looks at me at all as I stand there filming. There’s a pause of about two seconds in the middle where no one walks through, but otherwise there’s certain seconds where six people walk through. I love how adept the people are – there’s only 1 or 2 out of about a 100 people who even slightly fumble with their tickets, while there’s a few people who almost enter and then hesitate and walk away.
In Tokyo, the last train’s around midnight. Taxi costs are extortionate. But clubs and bars stay open until 5 AM (or later), when the train service resumes. On weekend mornings, there’s a rush hour in reverse, as the revelers and the stranded spill out into the streets.
Video for Jet Echo’s “Drift Speaking.” I’d had footage of them playing different venues in Seoul, and they went on a tour of Japan, China, and Korea. That inspired me to dig up some of my Japan footage, and imagine Northeast Asia at night, while Jet Echo played live somewhere.
I hear it said that Tokyo looks like the moon. I think the reason this gets said is its abundant silver lighting. Walking through central Tokyo in the semi-quiet middle of the night makes me think of walking through a moonlit forest.
In contrast, Seoul, where I live now, is much more lit by orange lighting. Contrast the Tokyo scene above with the Seoul scene below. I think many people don’t consciously think of it, but it is both the way the city is artificially lit at night and the way the sun lights it (or not) during the day that contributes to each city’s own visual look – but it seems the lighting scheme crosses most of the cities of a particular country.