We’re caught by film-maker Naotaro Endo’s documentary on Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji fish market.
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In October Tsukiji Wonderland, director Naotaro Endo’s documentary film about Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, will debut in cinemas across Japan. Given unprecedented access, Endo and his small crew recorded 600 hours of interviews and goings-on during 16 months of filming. The project was timely: after 81 years at its Tsukiji location, the world’s largest fish market will move to Toyosu, on Tokyo Bay, in November.
What’s Tsukiji’s appeal?
Nowhere else in Japan do you find so much fish, and so many different kinds. It’s holy ground for our sushi culture. I wanted to show the market professionals whose pride, passion and expertise make it such a thrilling place to visit.
Why focus on the wholesale fish brokers?
They’re on the frontlines; many are the third or fourth generation in their families to run the business. They’re not just trading fish and taking their cut. They know where to source the freshest seafood and what time of year each kind of fish is at its fatty prime. They rely on information that’s changing hourly to supply to chefs, restaurateurs and supermarkets. Climate change has made what they do even more important.
What was challenging about filming at Tsukiji?
The market is constantly in motion. We couldn’t use a tripod and it was dangerous to stand in one place for long. Any time we filmed inside the market we had to apply for access a week beforehand. But almost nothing went as planned. We wanted to film prized bluefin tuna that had been caught in the Tsugaru Strait in late spring and early summer but in 2014 they happened to be extremely scarce.
How will the move to Toyosu change the market?
Tokyo’s fish market has evolved over time; it continues to adapt to declining fish consumption and changing lifestyles. The new market won’t be the same as Tsukiji. I hope this film stirs debate about Tsukiji’s cultural importance and gets people thinking about the role of the new market.
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