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Friday, November 13, 2015

Tsukiji's Jogai Retail Market Faces Uncertain Future

Above, one of the many shops in the Jogai marketplace in Tsukiji. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Next year's closure of the historic Tsukiji Fish Market is causing the retail area next door to wonder about its future after the fish market is gone.

The New York Times reported:
Tokyo is known for its neon lights and armies of salarymen who spill out of office towers in often indistinct neighborhoods.

But amid that giant urban crush is Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. In a city in a rush to wipe away its history, the market is a gem that evokes Japan’s pre-World War II past and its love of food. 
The wholesale market on the banks of the Sumida River several minutes from Ginza opened in 1935 and is best known for its predawn tuna auction. But navigating the market’s cramped and slippery corridors can be treacherous and, while fascinating, is primarily for viewing, not sampling. 
The retail market next door is more inviting. Roughly eight square blocks, the outer market, or Jogai (pronounced JOE-guy), is chockablock with small, family-owned retail shops selling fish and meat, seaweed and sweets, knickknacks and kitchen supplies. 
Shopkeepers with raspy voices invite passers-by to look at their goods or eat in their restaurants, some of which are tucked away in alleys. 
In my dozen years working in Tokyo, including several at The New York Times bureau across the street, and on my annual visits since then, my wife and I have never grown tired of wandering the market’s mazelike streets. We stock up on dried seaweed, Japanese snacks and other sundries, and dine at surprisingly affordable restaurants. We love the shopkeepers and their gravely voices, quick wit and candid opinions. 
Yet this gustatory wonderland is in danger. Next year, the Tokyo government will move the wholesale market a few miles away to Toyosu. 
I visited the Tsukiji Fish Market and Jogai in 2010 and enjoyed browsing around its many shops and a sushi meal. If you are planning to visit Japan, I recommend that you visit Jogai before the Tsukiji Fish Market closes so you can get a taste of historical Tokyo.

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