The Tsukiji Fish Market is the world’s largest. It is the hub of commerce and distribution for a city of 30 million people with high standards for the quality of the seafood they eat.
The action begins early and moves fast. The huge warehouses are lively at 4am as people gather for the main attraction of the day: the tuna auction. This is a standing room only event where people make quick decisions about expensive fish. The dialogue follows a set routine that results in one party purchasing the fish that will be distributed to restaurants across the city.
As I walked through the market, the sights, sounds, and smells described a relentless, focused pace of worklife. Tsukiji moves fresh fish, and freshness is a fleeting quality. For the best dining experience for the customer and the best price for the merchant, a day makes a vast difference. Although an employee may have a good reason to move slowly this morning, the show must continue at its deliberate pace. People put aside discomfort and distractions to attend to the job at hand.
The pace is unrelenting but not at all frantic. The pace, that can seem serene within the lively complexity of the market, reflects the practice and expertise of people who do this work every day. With practiced hands they cut fish, arrange molluscs, wrap sushi, move packages, negotiate sales, and move packages on motorized carts.
While working intently the people of the market tolerate the presence of tourist wandering aimlessly, taking photos of their activities and their fish. It requires attentiveness and civility to assure that one stays out of the path of carts zipping around through the narrow passageways amongst the interminable stalls where people process fish at their individual stands.
It is difficult to believe that the oceans can support the demand for such a diverse range of fresh, wild creatures. The scale of the operation is breathtaking. It is hard not to reflect on sustainability.
Work can vary quite a bit in its timelines. Some tasks have a lot of latitude. It may be very important that the works is done, but whether is it is completed this week or next moth is of no real consequence. Other work is highly time limited. If it is not complete soon, it may as well not be done at all.
What timelines inspire you?
What timelines distress you?
Would the Tsukiji pace of life fulfill you or overwhelm you?