The Tsukiji Fish Market is renown as being the biggest fish market in the world, a well deserved title but some feel that doesn’t even properly describe Tsukiji as it is in many aspects one of a kind. In Tsukiji Wonderland we get an in-depth look at the market and its inner-workings, from the 14,000 people that play various roles working within the market, to chefs who reap the benefits of their expertise, to researchers and archivists looking to encapsulate into words the magic that exists within this institution.
Much of Tsukiji Wonderland feels like it’s dedicated to the praise of their ‘Intermediate Wholesalers’, which is not unfounded given the importance of their role in selecting the fish that is best suited for their clientelle. Celebrity chefs, fishmongers, and virtually everyone they interact with comments on their distinct knowledge and the great focus they place on relationships with their customers, recognizing how that is even more important than the fish itself. From their different perspectives, we gain an understanding of how complex the role of the Intermediate Wholesaler really is, and how they may be the unifying element within the market. Truly the compliments are endless throughout the film, it drives the message home but at points reach redundancy for the audience.
Audiences are also given a glimpse of the different areas of the market, from the ice manufacturing workers, to multiple auction halls for every variance of fresh and processed seafood imaginable. Some nice breaks from the long string of interviews include footage on tricks of the trade to keep fish fresher for longer, explanations about the practice of aging fish intentionally to bring out their best flavours, and a run down of how seasonality affects the availability and characteristics of the fish resulting in Japan’s distinct seasonal menus.
As far as filmmaking technique goes, portions of the interviews in Tsukiji Wonderland employs a sound design wherein the background noise of the market is optimally mixed with interview soundtracks. We see interview subjects and shots of the market unrelated to the sound sources but they tie nicely together to recreate the ambience of Tsukiji Market. Also included is an 80 year old film on the construction of the first market, which again, nicely breaks up any monotony from the continuous interviews with the market workers.
The Tsukiji Market was and is still revolutionary in its market operations, as well as groundbreaking in its methods of commerce and architecture design. Tsukiji Wonderland is a loving salute to all of the above.