It’s a chilly morning 6AM and I’m standing on the road waiting for the arrival of Mr.T on his small 50cc motorbike coming directly from the Tsukiji. I’m told the Tsukiji will be moving by next November, so these are the rare opportunities to catch an old sturdy and diligent sushi chef who is unlikely to follow the markets’ move.
Standing here I can’t help to notice how the new and old buildings are mingled with one another yet the landscape looks so perfect and content. I watch a vending machine and some rare graffiti on a building ready to be taken down.
At this time the day you find mostly people doing local maintenance, or getting ready to do construction but there is not much Street traffic. This day seems to be unusually warm with blue skies but it’s true that winter has not yet arrived in the cold sharp waters off Japan.
At the age of 67 Mr. T is still riding his motorbike in the early wee hours on the roads of Tokyo whether it’s rain or shine. He is one of those types of sushi masters who does not have any chef disciple, nor does he wish to have one. If you would ask him he would kindly tell you he’s not interested and while I feel a sense of sadness, I understand where he’s coming from. These types of masters have their own way of doing things which they believe should not be transmitted to others. A kind of replication that’s unnecessary given the system today.
A sushi chef is driven by his inner passion and his clients need to enjoy one of the cleanest cuisines on planet earth. Now forget what you know about sushi and dream of eating freshly caught sea foods from the shores of Japan.
There are no mistakes made by the fishermen who suffer the cold seas and the truck drivers who plot their way through the darkness to deliver the fish to Tsukiji. It could all come to an end once the Tsukji moves, or will it. The Tsukiji is a fascinating place to see and watch the most magnificent sea treasures known to humanity.
Mr. T is artisanal and only carries a handful of fish for his daily clients. These fish are hand-picked each day and placed in his now modern Styrofoam box, replaced by his old heavy hinoki box.
His tools are simple and sharp, he knows the age of each knife and never retires them until the blades are so thin they almost collapse.
His work is immaculate and he now wears glasses because he’s not as young as before. He has poor light but manages in his old ways. A person true to his tradition and sticks to what he knows best – sushi. He has a daily routine, a way of doing things, repetition makes him one of those finicky types. He hasn’t any other means except those “golden fingers”. In the end its dedication and quality of raw materials, coupled with technique, and know how that narrows it down to a simple perfection.