In 1935, the world’s largest wholesale fish market opened in a neighborhood called Tsukiji, occupying prime Tokyo real estate right in the center of the city.
83 years later, on October 6th 2018, it finally symbolically shuttered its doors and relocated to a swanky, modern, yet cookie-cutter multi-storied new home in Toyosu, taking away it’s charm with it. The Tsukiji prime location is being redeveloped for a transportation and entertainment hub for the Olympics in 2020.
While the new home at Toyosu is an upgrade with all respects – a well air-conditioned interior, clean health bills, platforms purpose built for tuna auction viewing – it is no different than any other indoor modern market in the world, and the visitor has certainly lost the major draw of an open air experience which had been preserved for about a hundred years.
But nowhere is the base normalization clearer than at the 2 famous Sushi places that have always been part and parcel of a complete Tsukiji visit – Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. Both of these have relocated to the swanky Toyosu location, and unfortunately, are indistinguishable from your run of the mill strip-mall-America sushi joint in look and feel, though I am told, the sushi tastes as good as the original setup.
We had visited Tsukiji in December 2016, getting up for a tuna auction viewing at 5:00 am, walking to it in the biting cold. Standing in line for Sushi Dai in that freezing cold for 90 minutes absolutely made the sushi taste even better, while my wife and younger one walked over to an old grand-pop-and-mom breakfast joint and had an endearing conversation along with toast and milk.
For sure you can now sit easily on stools while you wait in line, shielded from the cold or heat, but you can do that anywhere in the world.
What would be the point of that?