Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World (California Studies in Food and Culture, 11) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2003/10
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Located only blocks from Tokyo's glittering Ginza, Tsukiji--the world's largest marketplace for seafood--is a prominent landmark, well known but little understood by most Tokyoites: a supplier for countless fishmongers and sushi chefs, and a popular and fascinating destination for foreign tourists. Early every morning, the worlds of hi-tech and pre-tech trade noisily converge as tens of thousands of tons of seafood from every ocean of the world quickly change hands in Tsukiji's auctions and in the marketplace's hundreds of tiny stalls. In this absorbing firsthand study, Theodore C. Bestor--who has spent a dozen years doing fieldwork at fish markets and fishing ports in Japan, North America, Korea, and Europe--explains the complex social institutions that organize Tsukiji's auctions and the supply lines leading to and from them and illuminates trends of Japan's economic growth, changes in distribution and consumption, and the increasing globalization of the seafood trade. As he brings to life the sights and sounds of the marketplace, he reveals Tsukiji's rich internal culture, its place in Japanese cuisine, and the mercantile traditions that have shaped the marketplace since the early seventeenth century.
Theodore C. Bestor is Professor of Anthropology and Japanese Studies at Harvard University and past President of the American Anthropological Association's East Asian Studies Section and the Society for Urban Anthropology. His publications include Neighborhood Tokyo (1989), Doing Fieldwork in Japan (coeditor, 2003), and "How Sushi Went Global" in Foreign Policy (2000).
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And from the anthropological point of view is great from a theoretical and practical perspective.
Tsukiji is almost nothing to look at but walk in and its people have things to do and places to go. The marketplace's grimy aging rows of cramped wet stalls house a teeming population of busy auctioneers, stevedores, and customers. Theodore Bestor's book brings it all to life and goes further by analysing in depth several aspects of the market.
After justifying Tsukiji (chapter 1) as a fit study for an anthropologist to pursue, Bestor gives us a thorough description of the key aspects of the Tsukiji marketplace: Tsukiji's neighbourhood, its (in the 1930s) avant-guarde form-follows-function layout (chapter 2); it's history (chapter 3); the importance of food culture in Japan and Tsukiji's lead-and-follow role in it (chapter 4); an economic analysis the value Tsukiji adds to the production chain (chapter 5); a true anthropological study of Tsukiji's society (chapter 6); a description of the mechanics of Tsukiji's auctions (chapter 7). At the end (chapter 8) Bestor peers a little into the future and reflects on Tokyo's changing landscape and the effects and likelihood of moving Tsukiji to a new location.
I originally intended to give Tsukiji only four stars because of a few drawbacks, but decided that this would have been churlish given how much I loved it. But here are a few warnings. Chapter 1 for instance is really meant for anthropologists who might question the study as legitimate anthropology; this chapter could have been shortened and included as a preface instead. Also, some of the material will confuse people who have never traveled to Japan. For instance while Bestor does point out that Japanese households buy their food daily, he doesn't dramatize it much. A section on how a typical Tokyo family spends a typical weekday from dawn to dusk, with a description of the children's lunch box, the husband's favourite eatery, and the wife's shopping would have helped the chapter on food culture.
But these are quibbles. Readers who live or visit Japan will love this book, readers who don't will need to work a little harder at visualizing some of it. And it is rewarding. "Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World" is a tightly focused study of one particular aspect of Japan; it will give readers a more intimate look than would a more general book on all of Japan.
All in all, highly recommended!
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