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CompleteMartialArts.com - Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World (California Studies in Food and Culture, 11)

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Manufacturer: University of California Press
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 381.4370952135
EAN: 9780520220249
ISBN: 0520220242
Label: University of California Press
Manufacturer: University of California Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 412
Publication Date: 2004-07-12
Publisher: University of California Press
Studio: University of California Press

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Editorial Reviews:

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.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Fascinating read
Comment: A truly fascinating book about the social, commercial, spoken and unspoken interactions that take place within this complex network of one of the world's largest fish markets. I read this book in the context of an anthropology class, but I think this book would also be an enjoyable (though not exactly light) read, for anyone who likes having an in-depth, anthropological look into a place where everything happens rapidly, and where fish can become a basis of an economy and culture.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Perfect Guide to a Tokyo Vacation
Comment: A fishing boat leaves from Barnegat Light, New Jersey
headed out for a week or more of long-line fishing for
swordfish, but two days later, it's back at the dock
meeting a refrigerated truck. What happened? Was their
trip cut short by mechanical failure? Bad ice?
No, they caught a giant bluefin tuna as a `bycatch'
and a buyer in Tokyo, notified by radio, sent a truck t
o pick it up and get it on the next plane to Japan.
At the heart of all this remarkable transport is
the soon-to-be closed Tsukiji, a giant market next
to the posh Ginza and tacky Shinbashi neighborhoods
that currently handles ten per cent of the world's
trade in fresh fish.

As a piece of social history, this book would be
fascinating and for the anthropologist concerned
with community and institution, it's a milestone.
But that's not why I am recommonding this book so
highly. I urge you to buy it because it's the key
to a particular kind of travel.

If you are going to Tokyo, there is a guidebook
and a list of recommended sights. You can even go
on a tour and have someone decide what you should
see. Or you can take the time to get familiar with
Tsukiji before you leave. You can spend your mornings
(it opens before dawn and is closed just after noon)
wandering the inner and outer market. You can have
the freshest, cheapest sushi you've ever tasted and
shop for sushi knives and other cutlery. You can
speak not a single word of Japanese and have the
time of your life.

Better yet, if you do this, it will change the way
you travel forever. You will no longer be content
to see what you've imagined seeing and what all your
friends have seen. In fact, the whole idea of `seeing'
a city will change. You'll want to taste it, hear it,
smell it and wake up with it too.

This splendid book is nicely written, Bestor has a good
touch with words, a quality not common among
anthropologists. There is also a visitors' guide to
the outer market. So whether your traveliing is ocean-spanning
or armchair-sprawling, Tsukiji is a delight.

--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and the forthcoming novel bang-BANG from Kunati Books. ISBN 9781601640005

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: This book is not just about fish
Comment: "If a maritime species can be consumed by human beings, in Japan, it almost certainly has been," writes Harvard anthropologist and sushi aficionado Theodore Bestor.
And the place to get it is Tsukiji at the mouth of the Sumida River in Tokyo, the world's biggest fish market, where millions of pounds of fish a day and billions of dollars worth of seafood a year are received, sold (usually more than once) and shipped. That's about five times bigger than New York's (lately extinct) Fulton Fish Market.
Although Tsukiji controls only a tenth of Japan's seafood business, the Japanese are so devoted to seafood and have so much money that fisheries around the world operate on Tsukiji's beat.
New fisheries have been created just for Tsukiji, like the air-flown fresh Atlantic bluefin tuna business. Tuna is king at Tsukiji, to the point that conservationists fear the extinction of the Atlantic bluefin.
Bestor's "Tsukiji" is comprehensive, neatly fitting the market into both historical and present-day contexts, but his main interest is in what he calls intermediate wholesalers.
There are about 1,600 of them, narrowly specialized. They are proud of their alleged origin as supporters of the first ruling Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo), of their knowledge of fish (but, of course, the younger generation doesn't know what the old-timers think they should), of their hometowns, their high schools, their religious sodalities, family ties, festivals and staying power.
Staying power especially. Some dealers claim to be of the 17th generation. Tsukiji was the famous fish market of Nihonbashi until the Great Kanto earthquake destroyed it in 1923. Rebuilt in a new location, Tsukiji seems to have carried its history along with it successfully.
It is facing an uncertain future again, as usual, says Bestor. The challenges come from the market structure, which is shifting from auctions to direct, negotiated deals. And from the municipal government, which wants to move the cramped, decaying market.
It's within walking distance of Ginza, and many dealers worry that moving away will kill the market. It will almost certainly kill the "outer" market of little stalls and restaurants that congregates around the inner market. (Bestor provides a guide for tourists.)
All markets have, to anthropologists, a certain sameness, but Tsukiji has some uniquely Japanese features. Sakidori is the oddest, compared with American methods.
The auctions begin around 5 a.m., too late for supermarket chains that have to wrestle their purchases through Tokyo's traffic and also need extra time to clean, cut, wrap and price packages. Smaller local shops don't need so much lead time.
Sakidori allows the big guys to carry off whatever they want before the auction, which gives them an advantage in obtaining the best quality items. But the price is set by the smaller guys who stay later.
Another obvious difference between Tsukiji and American markets is the place of religious rites at Tsukiji. Japanese fishmongers may not be any more religious than American businessmen, but they are more likely to organize business matters in religious contexts, from parading at festivals to going as business groups to famous shrines.
Bestor has attempted to write a book for both academic anthropologists and for general readers, and cheerfully invites the general reader to skip some chapters.
It's worth the effort of reading it all. This book is not just about fish.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Detailed book on a fascinating subject
Comment: I've never seen the Tsukiji fish market in operation, but I'm quite sure that it's fascinating, and one of the best reasons I have for thinking that is this big and detailed book. Theodore Bestor is a professor of anthropology at Harvard, but unlike a stereotypical anthropologist, he doesn't study fossils or primitive tribes. He studies contemporary Japanese economic institutions.

The book is a serious work of academic scholarship but, happily, it's only a little less readable for that. Professor Bestor descends into opaque academic jargon only once and then pretty briefly. (It rather feels as though he does it once just to prove that he can.) Other that that brief bit, there's only a smattering of academic jargon in the book and most of it is perfectly understandable. Professor Bestor is occasionally a bit repetitive, and there are a few inelegant chapter introductions and summaries ("In this chapter I have..."), but there's very little here that hinders an interested lay-person's enjoyment. Besides, who but an academic would spend 15 years visiting and learning about a fish market? Anyone who has an interest in Japanese culture should be glad that Professor Bestor did because there's a lot to learn from reading the book.

Professor Bestor explains the market's history, its seventeenth-century origin in nearby Nihonbashi, its move to Tsukiji in 1923, its move into the current buildings in 1935, its closure during the second world war, its resurgence in the 1950s, and its likely future move to a new location across the Sumida river. In equally careful detail, he tells us about the market's mechanisms and its participants: the auctions and the seven auction-houses, the hundreds of wholesalers and how they do business, how the market changes in anticipation and reaction to consumers' changing preferences, and so on.

There's no question that there are a lot of interesting facts here. I'd never have guessed that sushi as we know it was invented in the middle of the nineteenth century. But, perhaps not surprisingly, Professor Bestor is at his best when he's interpreting and analyzing as an anthropologist. Economic transactions don't happen in a vacuum.

We get a wonderfully clear picture of the numerous overlapping formal and informal relationships among the market's participants and between them and the various parts of local and national government that license and regulate the market. We also get to see wholesalers changing their businesses, not just in response to short-term market changes, but also in response to larger-scale economic trends. While they were once exclusively family businesses, many are now becoming increasingly like ordinary corporations.

Japanese social structures are famously opaque to outsiders and Professor Bestor has done a fabulous job learning about and explaining a fascinating place. And his descriptions are good enough that you can almost smell the fish. There's also a useful guide to to visiting the market at the end of the book.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Hope you're good at skimming...
Comment: A great subject, tackled by a writer who has a nice sense of language -- but please, somebody take a red pen to this book! This isn't a dissertation anymore (I assume it once was -- it certainly reads like one). Every point is belabored. Most of what needs to be cut are repetitive descriptions of the anthropological grounding for his approach to the fish market... but then, there are passages like the one I will take the liberty of quoting below, which truly strain the limits of credulity. Here, from pages 77 and 78 of the hardback version, is an actual description of how to play rock-paper-scissors:

"From time to time, bidders break a tie by a quick round of the child's game of jan-ken (rock-paper-scissors). Two or more people -- on the count of jan, ken, po! -- simulatenously thrust out a hand: a fist to represent a rock, an open palm for paper, or two fingers extended for scissors. Each of the three objects can be defeated by one of the others and can in turn defeat the third: rock smashes scissors (and rock wins); paper covers rock; scissors cut paper. It is a simple mechanism for deciding among ties as long as the group is not too large; this and related hand games are commonplace legacies of Edo's popular culture.

There's the book in a nutshell: the author makes an interesting observation, then beats you over the head with it.

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