Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here Fishy Fishy Fishy

Now that I am wrapped up my time with my internship with the firm of Arata Isozaki & Associates I am devoting this next week to touring the many sights of Tokyo. After three months of an Open Desk position with the firm I am left almost pennyless, so I am spending most of my time around Tokyo to save money.

At 4:30am I dragged myself out of bed, why? Because I am heading to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo Bay. Why so early? Because the market sales are almost done by 9am and fully closed by 11am... so time was of the essence. I wanted to go see the tuna action, but since the earthquake the tuna actions have been closed to the public (or most likely is that they finally had a strong reason to ban tourists from the tuna sales). The Fish market is firstly a business, and probably at the far extreme end a tourist destination. The inner market is where the wholesaling of most of Tokyo's and Japan's fish is done. This is the place where you get to see Tuna the size of cows.

Tourists are not allowed into the inner market before 9am, but as I arrived at 6:30am and the outer market was just gearing up, I decided I should make the plunge. The market is a photographers dream, but alas I did not take many. The place is literally a death trap. Fast moving carts, bicycles and fish mongers leave little space and time to take pictures. This is a place of business and just felt wrong to stand in the way and take pictures. Therefore I was only able to snap a few pictures of the interior. But the memories will last forever. Mountains of fish and other sea creatures; hundred pound tuna's being carved up by 1m long swords; and the rapid movements of fish mongers and their carts.

After escaping the inner market I made my way around the outer market. The outer market is a sort of everything market with a large concentration of fish related products like fish cakes. So many foods I wanted to try, but had no way of transporting them home cold nor money to purchase them. However, even low on funds I had to try sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market. I chose to go to a more mainstream sushi place with a little cheaper prices, but still really high quality. The nigiri-zushi was the best I have ever had. The grilled fatty tuna was south watering and gave me a whole new love for sushi. I tried as many as I can with a particular fondness for the mackerel zushi.

After gorging on the raw fish I decided I really needed a coffee. I toured over to a small coffee shop just outside the outer market. The coffee was extremely good...!

After the coffee I decided that I would walk around the surrounding area of the fish market. Nothing overly exciting in the area, however there was an interesting 1930's? building sort of dropped into the area.

After the fish market I decided to make my way over to Tsukishima area, about one stop away from the fish market. The Tsukishima area once contained many traditional Japanese narrow lane homes, but now has given way to massive high rises and large vacant public spaces. Some of the lane houses luckily still exist there with a small canal. I wanted to try a famous dish there called monjiyaki, but I could not find a place selling it. It was likely though that I was too early in the area to try the food.

After touring Tsukishima I hoped on the metro and traveled 2 stops over to Shiodome, a sort of new business district located on vacant harbour lands. Its interesting that the land was flat before development, but the Japanese design method was to have buildings with multiple topographies. There are elevated streets, metro lines and multilevelled atriums spaces and interacting with each other. All these spaces and walkways are interconnected to the surround buildings. What it amounts to is a surprisingly rich and dense building area. Interestingly the elevated walkways did not seem vacant like so many western designs.

On one of the upper levels I found a fomous television studio's restaruant that houses a massive entertainment clock. The clock is styled to look like the anime style 'Steam Punk' and at every 6th hour the clock puts on a one minute display. Unfortunetely due to power conservation measures, the clock was not functioning. But you can view its display here on youtube.

After walking around Shiodome I walked over to the Hama-Rikyu Park. The park was designed for a wealthy feudal lord during the Edo period. By the time I got to the park it was about noon and the sun was deadly! I knew I was going to burn without sunblock, but I soldiered on an hugged the tree line. The park was a surprising treat. Large open green spaces and lots of forested areas, brought back memories of Canada. I found a nice shaded area and napped for about an hour in the hot air. After waking up from my nap from a helicopter flying overhead, I decided to finish the tour of the park. I found an interesting area where the lord of the park had a manmade duck pond constructed with specially designed duck blinds. The pond and duck blinds blended into the surround landscape into one complete whole.

Where I napped
After finished the tour of the park and being sufficiently burnt and soaked with sweat I decided to make my way home... but I gave into a previous idea I had. I wanted to stop off in Roppongi on the way home because people at my former firm told me that there is a free gallery and book store near by. I found the TOTO gallery (which also displays bathroom fixtures) and its book store and was greatly surprised. I found all the books I wanted to buy and for a greatly reduced price from their Canadian counter parts (roughly 1/2 the price). Above the bookstore is the free gallery that was another gem space. On display was architect Jun Igarashi scaled models of various projects and designs. The models were designed at very large scales, 1:10 for some of them and were almost like doll houses. It was greatly inspirational show to see and has spurred me on to get home and start building ideas I have with large models. 

When I left the gallery I beelined it for home. I was exhausted.... wet and burnt. I essentially crashed when I got home... The next day was another big day.. the day I travel to Yokohama to see the famed Yokohama International Ferry Terminal... 

stay tuned

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