I arrived in Japan a month after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the catalyst of the devastating Fukushima meltdown. Despite advice from peripheral acquaintances to cancel my trip, life in Tokyo (superficially) seemed as normal as ever – operating transportation, bustling nightlife, all those good and normal things. That is until we ventured to Tsukiji market one weekend.
There was an apocalyptic feel at 9am. We were met with emptiness, a certain stillness of sparse warehouses and strewn palettes. We found a sign slathered to a grubby wall in red tape politely warning us: “Please stop visiting the market by the earthquake generation”. Our morning stroll felt increasingly intrusive as we meandered, confused, through deserted loading dock after deserted loading dock. Crates and turret trucks were poised neatly for the most part ready for a busy day of trade. A school of comical plastic tetraodontidae fish hung limp above locked roller doors – eerie to say the least. We eventually found a small pocket of stalls operating on the market’s outskirts running on skeleton staff but I could feel unrest in the air, even a sweet pug resting at my feet had the most solemn look in its eyes.
We eventually found somewhere to eat, and did so gravely (with occasional banter regarding how wonderful our breakfast was like the filthy foodies we are), and left the hushed Tsukiji market, not having experienced the bustling wonder of people and produce, but instead a rare scene at a standstill I struggle to express in words.