Tsukiji Market Demolition

  • Tsukiji Market Demolition 00:00

One day, my friend, with full enthusiasm, said “ You have to watch this film Gih, apik banget (it’s very good)”. The film in question was a documentary titled “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. A documentary film that was helmed by an American director, David Gelb and was published on March 2012, told the story of the life and work of an elderly man named Jiro Ono, a sushi maestro as well as the owner of a famous sushi restaurant in Japan named Sukiyabashi Jiro. The reputation of this restaurant was well acclaimed internationally ( it received the prestigious 3 Michelin stars). In this film, it was illustrated dramatically about  Jiro’s work ethic and vision along with all his restaurant staff, including his son. A Japanese signature discipline reflected in every sushi slice.  

One interesting scene and I remembered it clearly in the film was grandpa Jiro’s routine of buying fish, calamari, and many other in the famous Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo. In the scene, there was a moment when the filmmaker caught the soundscape of a tuna auction in the Tsukiji Market which was unique. The sounds of bells, auctioneers shouting enthusiastically and rhythmically, added with percussion music score made the scene that much more dramatic and right. The Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant was located in the Ginza district, Tokyo, not far from the Tsukiji market. It would take about a half-hour walk from the restaurant to the market. 

In the beginning of April during my soundscape research in Tokyo, I took the time to visit the Tsukiji market. Inspired by the film about grandpa Jiro, this market became a location I couldn’t miss during my research. But, when I was telling about my plan to grandpa Jiji – the owner of lodge,  he said that the area inside the Tsukiji market had been teared down and since October last year the merchants had been relocated to a new modernized market area in Toyosu. Despite the relocation, grandpa Jiji encouraged me to still go to Tsukiji because the outer area where there were food stands/vendors of fresh sea product were still maintained and had not been relocated. There were still many tourists who visited the market. Furthermore grandpa Jiji was feeling nostalgic that he felt some kind of lost because Tsukiji market was one of his favorite market. He then went on to say that the new market in Toyosu was too modern, lack warmth, and just wasn’t good in general. This was a personal opinion of course, but memory is something precious to have.     

Long story short, on the morning of 4th April 2019, I departed from Kanda station near the lodge to Ginza station. I then walked to the Tsukiji market complex with a complete recording set in my bag. When I arrived in Tsukiji market, I started to record the morning crowd at the food stalls in the area outside of the market which was located in alleyways. ( I will write in detail on the next recording: “A Morning at Tsukiji Market”). After that I felt curious and walked closer to the once Tsukiji market. The area was surrounded with guardrail. From outside you could hear the sound of heavy engines echoing. I then got up on a bridge to get a better look. 

The area inside the Tsukiji market had been teared down. Rubles of what was once Tsukiji market scattered everywhere and heavy equipments were working continuously cleaning the whole area. The once and great market had been emptied. No more sounds of tuna auctions there, no more sounds of traders and buyers transactioning. There weren’t anymore hustle and bustle of a market just like in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It was replaced with the sounds of bulldozers flattening the market. It seemed there were already preparation for the next project development because there were already a lot of gravel mound and material sand ( I didn’t know for sure about the plans of the project going forward. There were rumours that said it will be built into a bus terminal approaching the Tokyo Olympics, or there were also some that said the area will be built into a sport complex complete with retail shops).  

On that day, I then recorded the sounds of the heavy equipments like the bulldozers finishing their job destroying the zincs, woods, metals, and the Tsukiji market constructions. For the first time, I didn’t know why, I felt sad hearing the sound of the bulldozers. Even though the sounds weren’t like violin incision in melancholic songs. Enjoy listening to the last pieces of memory from the Tsukiji market.

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Sounds: Japan