On our last night in Tokyo we stayed up all night to go to the Tsukiji Fish market:
"The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market (Japanese: 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind." Wikipedia
We got there around around 3:00, well before the actual auctions started at 5:00, so we were able to see a lot of behind the scenes work and preparations. The people there were surprisingly accommodating, they let us pass in and out of any areas we pleased and even helped with directions. Everyone was hustling around working so I was amazed they didn’t just tell us to get lost. The place was like a bee hive, energy everywhere, people zipping around in these small transport carts moving the catch from the docks to the market area. Some of it was downright gruesome, the top picture was of a guy we found way in the back. He was butchering live fish one by one using some strange method involving a spinal rod and a large knife. I seriously can’t believe that much ocean life gets pulled out of the sea every day just in one place, sort of disconcerting to think this is going on everywhere around the world every day, can’t imagine that could go on very much longer.
At any rate, the experience is highly recommended and free. Your best bet is to just stay up all night and go really early to catch the more interesting stuff and beat the 5:00 rush of tourists (which actually wasn’t too bad).
It’s another rainy day in Amsterdam, been hard to get as many pictures as I would like. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear so hopefully I can play some catch-up.
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After all the shots of objects from Japan I thought I would do a post on the people themselves. Although the aesthetic elements of Japan were overwhelmingly pleasing, the people and the culture are what had the most profound impact on my stay there. Let me preface this by saying that any of these observations are obviously subjective as they are based on my limited exposure to one city during a 6 day period. I tried to see as many parts of Tokyo as I could and we usually traveled with local friends to insure we didn’t just see the tourist perspective.
I was amazed by how polite and hard working the people there seemed to be. The city itself borders on some sort of quasi-utopian vision of how good things could be in some alternate universe. It had it’s dark side as any city does, but by in large it’s just an incredibly clean and efficient place. Everyone we came into contact with was friendly and would go out of their way to help with anything you need. The service industry was something otherworldly, I have never experienced such courteous and attentive service anywhere else. The craziest part was they WILL NOT accept tips. We spent the first 2 days trying to tip cab drivers and waiters to no avail. Each time we left a tip on the table after a meal we were literally chased down outside the restaurant and informed that we had left money. No amount of explaining would convince them to keep the money. There is a significant language barrier but the courteous nature of the people we encountered usually overcame that obstacle through sheer diligence. There were workers everywhere doing all manner of tasks at any given time. Three people would be employed just to wave cars out of a parking garage and there were police and security guards posted everywhere in the city. They must be approaching 100% employment from the looks of things. I counted about 5 homeless people the entire time I was there.
Again these observations are all extremely subjective, my stay was limited to a short time frame and a small geographic area. But the same could be said for any of my stays in various American cities and none of them managed to appear so close to perfection as Tokyo. I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting Tokyo, you’ll find a great dose of culture and excitement. Make sure to save up though, that place is expensive. $12 beers anyone? I guess you get what you pay for though.
I am still rounding up and processing all the shots from the Tsuiki Fish Market, I’ll be posting those soon along with a lot of good ones from Bangkok, a visually stunning experience to be certain.
Some more wonderfully designed signage from Tokyo. Most of these were taken in the Harojuku area, a few are from Shibuya. The type and design of the subway system is incredible, so well thought out. More to come….
My friend Paul used to live here in Tokyo so yesterday we met up with his friend Ena who showed us around some new parts of the city. We went to the shopping district in Harojuku then to the temple there. All sorts of great stuff to look at. We ended up in Shibuya at this tiny bar that only sat 5 people. I am not sure of the name of the area, but on some back alley in Shibuya there is a row of these little bars apparently all built very quickly after the war. I have to say Harojuku has been my favorite part of the trip thus far.
Today we hit the Roppongi Hills area of Azubu-Juban in Tokyo. There’s a great contemporary art museum there and the Mori Tower which has an excellent view of the city from the top floor. There were all sorts of great examples of design and also the weirdest pair of pants ever made available for sale (see above). We had lunch at "Freshness Burger", a spot my friend Paul recommended. It definitely lived up to the hype, try to get there if you’re ever in Tokyo.
My brother and I arrived in Tokyo this evening and took the Narita Express to Tokyo Station. We’re staying at this great hotel that my friend Paul recommended, the Sanuki Club in the Azabujuban neighborhood. This whole city is like some giant prayer to the graphic and industrial design gods. I don’t think I could get enough pictures of it all if I was here for a year, everywhere you look is some perfectly thought out sign or machine. I think I took 20 pictures in the airport bathroom alone. I’ll try to post as much interesting stuff as I can find over the coming week.