Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

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Nishiki Market (Kyoto)

I think it is fair to say that markets hold a certain fascination for travellers. Kyoto’s famous Nishiki is no exception, though it is different to the sprawling open-air markets that one generally comes across.

Nishiki is a narrow alley housing some hundreds of stalls that continues to resemble a traditional shotengai or shopping street. Not only does it retain a traditional feel, Nishiki can be accessed from Shijo-dori, which runs through the commercial centre of Kyoto and is home to banks and luxury stores. The contrast is fascinating! In the space of a few minutes, one can move from browsing designer labels in glitzy department stores to immersion in the sights, sounds and smells of a market that has occupied the site for around 700 years. Popular with locals and tourists, Nishiki is known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” and is the location of choice for the city’s top chefs given the range of fresh, seasonal produce to be found there.

I regret not spending more time at Nishiki, but I hope this selection of shots will give some idea of this old fascinating market.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

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Tsukiji Fish Market

I confess!  This is a photographic blog about the world’s biggest fish market without any photos of fish.  However, who needs fish?  This market, like famous markets everywhere, is about its people.  Those who work here, shop here and pass through on the way to or from somewhere else.  Among other things, Tsukiji is another piece of the Japanese food experience and is a popular breakfast venue, as shown by several photos of people hunting for breakfast and their providers.

The basic tool of trade is, of course, the knife – another area where Japanese craftsmanship is revered.  A good blade is essential and the knife sharpener (pic 6) and the knife merchant (pic 7) are integral to the market’s operations.  I was also fascinated by the clerks (pics 9 & 10) who were totally absorbed in their work.  They rarely look up and would seem to rely on old skills and technologies to keep business running smoothly.

Tsukiji is an old market and as shown by pics 1 & 12 and is very much a working place that wears its scars, through which its story can be imagined.  Trolleys like the one in pic 11 symbolise this and although well worn from years of daily hard work, it retains an honest beauty.

All things come to an end and like other great markets in London and elsewhere, Tsukiji Fish Market will soon relocate to enable its prime location to be redeveloped.  Perhaps in time the new market will also capture our imagination, but for now I’m pleased to have my memories and photos of how people working from a collection of big, untidy sheds have created a much-loved institution.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)