13 May 2010

Out of Water

After a few hours of sleep and a five in the morning departure, we find ourselves in the center of Tokyo's fish market.

As we are told that everything here is "fresh" and we need not worry about getting ill, my eyes wander about the market and fixate on a Japanese man chain smoking five inches above a four foot long slab of raw tuna lying on the bloody concrete floor- half his cigarette is ash, waiting to fall but does not.

Small motorized carts, essentially comprised of what looks like a vertical keg for a steering wheel and a six foot long flat bed in back, roar past us from any given direction and at any given speed. There are no lights, no signs. They seem to be going back and forth between delivery and packaging, from the market to the trucks respectively. Each one appears to be on its own personal collision course, destined to to be totaled, and yet neither a fender is scraped, nor a frustrated remark shouted; this is not a job for a NYC cab driver. At times a cart hurries by and it is carrying very little on its bed and I understand that much of this work is simply keeping things moving.

Streets and alleys start to form as a result of the traffic caused by both carts and pedestrians. They form around fish vendors in the market place and a haphazard grid forms throughout the market; this is a walking street, this is a delivery street. Every morning this system is a phoenix rising from the ashes, a burning man on acid. The tall dark awning covering the vendors, people dodging high speed carts, blood red octopus tentacles overflowing cardboard boxes, a barrel of slowly suffocating eels squirming, live fish being tossed from tank to tank waiting to hear their final sentence, a crab already breaded but crawling around before it is packaged alive, all of these images scream death and yet this place is unmistakeably very much alive.

Chefs carry large bamboo baskets and rush past me in the narrow alleys between vendors, hurrying to "their guy" in an attempt to get a good deal. Large decapitated fish heads conglomerate in the middle of the streets, while their human sized bodies are descaled and hacked up using an archaic form of what appears to be a table saw. I think it is odd that their are no birds around picking up the scraps. Where are they? Where am I?

Unlike the birds, my curiosity got the better of me. I did not stay away. I decided that I'd better try something while I'm here. I swallowed the blood coated squid, feeling it feeling the inside of my mouth and throat. I should have been a bird, I should have stayed on my plane and up in the air. I vomited immediately, before the squid reached my stomach, and watched helplessly as the mess landed in the carton of squid from which it had originated. "I'll take the whole thing, please."

It was late in the morning and the trucks started to disappear, the vendors pack up. Soon nothing would be left of this city; only a bitter taste in my mouth and a bag full of squid. I think I'll feed the birds.

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