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Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World Paperback – July 12, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (July 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520220242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520220249
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Bestor's vivid and meticulous study of Tokyo's seafood market is at once perhaps the best description we have of a modern, large-scale commodity bazaar, an important contribution to comparative economics, and a powerful analysis of the everyday workings of Japanese culture. As a portrait of a master institution in a complex society, Tsukiji represents a major advance in the anthropological description of contemporary life."—Clifford Geertz, author of The Interpretation of Cultures

"This is, quite simply, a masterpiece of ethnography and a jewel of a book. It will prove immediately popular and influential."—William W. Kelly, Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

"Bestor's rich portrait of Tsukiji is set within the larger frame of Tokyo's urban history, helping us see clearly the forces which, over time, resulted in the creation of the world's greatest seafood market. An impressive amount of ethnographic fieldwork turns his fascination with Tsukiji into a first-rate piece of anthropological analysis. The reader will see Tokyo's colossal fish emporium through Bestor's eyes, far better than we could ever see it with our own."—Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power and Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom

"This study is a fine example of how key local institutions both drive and reflect larger national and global processes. In showing us the global reach of a major seafood market in Japan, Bestor is able to bring the best practices of ethnography to the abstractions of the economy, thus deepening our sense of how money, commodities, risk and drudgery meet to produce a specific - and brilliantly evoked - cultural economy. This is a rare book, full of treats for both the specialist and the general reader. "—Arjun Appadurai, author of Modernity at Large

From the Back Cover

"Bestor's vivid and meticulous study of Tokyo's seafood market is at once perhaps the best description we have of a modern, large-scale commodity bazaar, an important contribution to comparative economics, and a powerful analysis of the everyday workings of Japanese culture. As a portrait of a master institution in a complex society, Tsukiji represents a major advance in the anthropological description of contemporary life."-Clifford Geertz, author of The Interpretation of Cultures "

This is, quite simply, a masterpiece of ethnography and a jewel of a book. It will prove immediately popular and influential."-William W. Kelly, Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

"Bestor's rich portrait of Tsukiji is set within the larger frame of Tokyo's urban history, helping us see clearly the forces which, over time, resulted in the creation of the world's greatest seafood market. An impressive amount of ethnographic fieldwork turns his fascination with Tsukiji into a first-rate piece of anthropological analysis. The reader will see Tokyo's colossal fish emporium through Bestor's eyes, far better than we could ever see it with our own."-Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power and Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom

"This study is a fine example of how key local institutions both drive and reflect larger national and global processes. In showing us the global reach of a major seafood market in Japan, Bestor is able to bring the best practices of ethnography to the abstractions of the economy, thus deepening our sense of how money, commodities, risk and drudgery meet to produce a specific - and brilliantly evoked - cultural economy. This is a rare book, full of treats for both the specialist and the general reader. "-Arjun Appadurai, author of Modernity at Large --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The definitive book on Tsukiji by Theodore Bestor demystifies the mystique of this very foreign market.
Yukari Sakamoto
Bestor has attempted to write a book for both academic anthropologists and for general readers, and cheerfully invites the general reader to skip some chapters.
Harry Eagar
Readers who live or visit Japan will love this book, readers who don't will need to work a little harder at visualizing some of it.
Vincent Poirier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on June 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Tsukiji, Tokyo's huge world-famous fish market, is a major attraction for foreign tourists to Japan, which is odd since there's not much for a tourist to look at or to buy. (Would you take home a kilo of fresh tuna?) There aren't any guided tours either. Yet the market is described as a must-see in most tourist books, and this in a city that has next to nothing in terms of tourist attractions. But perhaps this makes sense; Tokyo is a place where one can be and do rather than look and marvel, and the Tsukiji market is exactly that.

Tsukiji is almost nothing to look at but walk in and its people have things to do and places to go. The marketplace's grimy aging rows of cramped wet stalls house a teeming population of busy auctioneers, stevedores, and customers. Theodore Bestor's book brings it all to life and goes further by analysing in depth several aspects of the market.

After justifying Tsukiji (chapter 1) as a fit study for an anthropologist to pursue, Bestor gives us a thorough description of the key aspects of the Tsukiji marketplace: Tsukiji's neighbourhood, its (in the 1930s) avant-guarde form-follows-function layout (chapter 2); it's history (chapter 3); the importance of food culture in Japan and Tsukiji's lead-and-follow role in it (chapter 4); an economic analysis the value Tsukiji adds to the production chain (chapter 5); a true anthropological study of Tsukiji's society (chapter 6); a description of the mechanics of Tsukiji's auctions (chapter 7). At the end (chapter 8) Bestor peers a little into the future and reflects on Tokyo's changing landscape and the effects and likelihood of moving Tsukiji to a new location.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By RJF in Illinois on October 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not an anthropologist or a foodie who is steeped in the industry. But I did go to Tokyo for 4 days with some friends to find excellent sushi. Having seen Tsukiji in a couple of television specials and worked in a much smaller market in the past I thought it would be interesting to see the real thing. Perhaps I should blame Dr. Bestor for the fact that I ended up spending two half-days engrossed in Tsukiji market but once I read the book and got over the initial shock of the place I felt like I had an inside edge and couldn't pull myself away. The book does an excellent job of balancing personal insights and experiences with objective accounts of the market's history and statistics and provides a behind the scenes understanding of supply and distribution activity as well as the multigenerational, family-run stalls. It's one thing to see the tuna auctions; it's another to have an understanding of how the fish got there, who buys them, how they are sold to the supply and distribution chains, the role of the vendors, the history of the building and other details that give it depth. In the end, after four days of tramping around Tokyo to sample great sushi and other foods, we agreed that the best sushi we had was at a tiny restaurant in the outer market. And my visits to Tsukiji - which is sadly be being replaced by a more modern facility that can better meet the needs of a city that has grown since the facility was built - were the most fascinating part of my visit thanks largely to Dr. Bestor's book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Yukari Sakamoto on October 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Trained as a chef and living near Tsukiji market I have the pleasure of shopping at one of the greatest markets in the world. The definitive book on Tsukiji by Theodore Bestor demystifies the mystique of this very foreign market. The rituals, language, history, and the gkatah or the determined way of doing things at Tsukiji are only part of the book. I currently work in a gdepachikah, the glorious food floors found in the basements of upscale department stores, and I can verify that he is spot on regarding marketplace practices. This book is for those who are seriously curious about Japanese food and culture. It is engrossing, captivating and a wealth of information. I find myself more and more fascinated with Tsukiji. Only Professor Bestor could write this book, for only he has spent so much time in the market. Glad that someone else did the hard work and was so generous to share it with the rest of us.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on November 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
"If a maritime species can be consumed by human beings, in Japan, it almost certainly has been," writes Harvard anthropologist and sushi aficionado Theodore Bestor.

And the place to get it is Tsukiji at the mouth of the Sumida River in Tokyo, the world's biggest fish market, where millions of pounds of fish a day and billions of dollars worth of seafood a year are received, sold (usually more than once) and shipped. That's about five times bigger than New York's (lately extinct) Fulton Fish Market.

Although Tsukiji controls only a tenth of Japan's seafood business, the Japanese are so devoted to seafood and have so much money that fisheries around the world operate on Tsukiji's beat.

New fisheries have been created just for Tsukiji, like the air-flown fresh Atlantic bluefin tuna business. Tuna is king at Tsukiji, to the point that conservationists fear the extinction of the Atlantic bluefin.

Bestor's "Tsukiji" is comprehensive, neatly fitting the market into both historical and present-day contexts, but his main interest is in what he calls intermediate wholesalers.

There are about 1,600 of them, narrowly specialized. They are proud of their alleged origin as supporters of the first ruling Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo), of their knowledge of fish (but, of course, the younger generation doesn't know what the old-timers think they should), of their hometowns, their high schools, their religious sodalities, family ties, festivals and staying power.

Staying power especially. Some dealers claim to be of the 17th generation. Tsukiji was the famous fish market of Nihonbashi until the Great Kanto earthquake destroyed it in 1923. Rebuilt in a new location, Tsukiji seems to have carried its history along with it successfully.
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