Photo gallery: Tsukiji Market, one week on

One place in Tokyo certainly isn't suffering from food shortages

Photo gallery: Tsukiji Market, one week on

Photo gallery: Tsukiji Market, one week on
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Whatever you think about the panic buyers who have stripped the shelves of Tokyo's supermarkets and convenience stores, one point is beyond dispute: they've got terrible taste. Supplies of white rice, instant noodles, white bread, milk, bottled water and toilet paper have been sorely taxed over the past few days. If you want fresh fruit, fish and vegetables, though – no problem.

When we arrive at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market in Tsukiji at 11am on Friday 18, a week to the day since the Sendai earthquake, vendors are busy packing up their unsold produce. Business starts and finishes early here – and business, it seems, is significantly down.

'People are afraid to go anywhere because of the aftershocks,' says an elderly vendor in the fish market. 'The blackouts and train stoppages are making it hard for customers to come, too.' The cold weather at the moment apparently makes it easy enough to preserve frozen fish, but the same can't be said of fresh produce.

'Basically, we have to sell it no matter what – even if that means offering it at a steep discount,' says Miura Suzutomo, a second-generation fish vendor who's been working at the market for 40 years. In addition to seeing a drop in customers, he says that a lot of bulk orders are being cancelled, while there's been a 20-30 percent reduction in shipments arriving at the market, mostly due to disruption on the Tohoku coastline.

Over in the vegetable section, boxes of fresh tomatoes, daikon, cabbages and citrus fruit are stacked high, awaiting delivery. At the shops surrounding the main market, meanwhile, there's a real abundance of food on sale. The contrast with the 'trapped and starving in post-tsunami Tokyo' stories doing the rounds in tabloid newspapers overseas is pretty striking: if this is scarcity, we'd be interested to know what excess looks like.

In the course of our chat, Suzutomo can't resist a few digs against Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, a popular hate figure around Tsukiji thanks to his controversial plans to move the market to a new location in Toyosu. 'Ishihara said that we'd be screwed here if there was a shindo 5 earthquake,' says Suzutomo. 'But look around you: Tsukiji isn't a victim at all… There's no reason to move this place. Tsukiji is a global brand.'

Photo by James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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