Havana - 50 Years After The Revolution

Series of

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market is the largest and most fascinating fish market in the world. Visiting it is, above all, a culinary experience, because at least half of the 450 varieties of fish seen on the counters and in the tanks don’t exist in our hemisphere. About 2500 tons of fish are weighed at the Tsukiji Market each day, for a value equivalent to about 28 million dollars: two times as much as in the Paris market (the second largest in the world) and eleven times as much as in the New York fish market. It is enormous, therefore, about 60,000 peoples’ livelihoods depend on it and 30,000 vehicles circulate within it. An entire city. A third of the fish is fresh, a third is frozen, and the rest is dried or in other forms. About 14,000 people work at the Tsukiji market, about 35,000 food service workers flock there every day and 50,000 others go there to do their shopping. The real secret of this market city is that in it everyone works with a single objective in mind, that of moving the fish along as fast as possible. The work shift begins at 3:00 am, then a short break for lunch, and at 20:30 everyone goes home to bed. The art of cleaning the fish has been passed down through the generations, while the exams for the classes on fish cleaning are very rigorous. Hundreds of tuna fish weighing between 100 and 400 kg arrive at Tsukiji everyday, from every corner of the world. The tuna auction, aitai in Japanese, is the most extraordinary part. The first auction begins at 5:00 in the morning and lasts about half an hour, while the last happens around 7:00 and about 800 wholesalers participate. The tunas are displayed in a warehouse: around 500 specimens of every size, origin, and price are available to the buyers who participate in the auction. Each buyer goes around equipped with a stick with a hook at one end, with which they open the gills of the animals to analyze the quality and freshness of the tuna. Each tuna has a number and a description of its weight and origin affixed on its back. The buyers take note of the specimens that they find interesting and that they will try to buy during the auction. Each of the participants in the individual auctions has a clearly visible tag on his cap with his name and identification number. The auctioneer begins a chant and his talent is that of seizing the highest bid and immediately moving on to the next specimen. The auctions follow one after another, seamlessly, in three consecutive spaces identified by the stands where the buyers take their seats. At 7:00 everything ends and the porters load the specimen of sold tunas in order to bring them to the individual counters where they will be cut into sections. In order to cut the tunas large knives with blades so sharp can cleanly through anything they touch are used. The operation used for the sectioning of the tuna is one of great skill, because it allows one to select the most valuable parts. A real jewel, the valuable piece that is worth almost as much as the entire rest of the animal, is otoro or o-toro, the part that runs from the fishes’ lower abdomen towards its head. Most of the time the majestic tuna concludes the long journey of its life with a plane flight. A flight packaged at about minus 76 degrees Celsius, destination Tsukiji: a place where the fish is transformed into a culinary delicacy. From the airport the tunas are transported by truck to Tsukiji and here lined up and weighed. An expanse of tunas; indescribable. Slowly they start to thaw, forming a sort of vaporous cloud above their bodies. The buyers, from the early hours of the market’s opening, begin to wander around these tunas testing their quality, smelling them and noting their color and their oil content. It may not seem like it, but each individual tuna differs from the others in flavor, and the best of them get the highest prices. The red tuna, a species that many environmentalists want protected, is the most expensive fish at the Tsukiji market. The Japanese consume about three quarters of the world’s catch of this species. Yes, Japan is a rich country, but not so much in terms of food resources. Yet it really knows how to take advantage of the rest of the world’s waters.