The first job I did at Touto Marine Products of the Tokyo
Central Wholesale Market was writing invoice slips of the dried
herring fillet auction.
Dried herring fillets are Japanese traditional food. They
are mostly processed at Hokkaido, the far north part of the
Japanese Islands. Processors make fillet productions out of
herring from the Bering Sea, the North Pacific, or the Norwegian
Sea. The fillets are dried by huge electric fans into various
types of dryness. Japanese people cook or plainly grill the
fillets to eat them.
At 6 o'clock, the auctioneer of the Frozen and Salted Fish
Division grumbled "Good morning!!" on the wooden deck
made about a foot higher than the concrete floor, and the
auction of the dried herring fillets took place.
The auctioneer, started to read the trade names or plainly
the names of the successful bidding middlemen.
Besides the shouting and trembling of the auctioneer, there
was another auctioneer as an assistant who made an invoice
book on a piece of paper. On the paper, which had two carbon
copies attached, the assistant wrote so fast the names of
middlemen, amount of the dried herring, price, etc., as though
he was writing in shorthand. At the back of the auctioneer,
there was a wall with a small window, where the assistant
threw in one of the sheets torn off from the invoice book as
soon as it's filled in. The small window was open onto a dirty
old wooden shack which was built at the back of the
auctioneer's stage. I waited there with a ball-point pen in hand,
started writing invoice slips as fast as possible.
"Number 5..., Kuri-tatu san (Mr. Chestnut-dragon), San-jou san (Mr. Three-castle), Kita-sige san (Mr. North-dense
growth), Kana-fusa san (Mr. Gold-blossom), Ise-mitu san (Mr.
Ise-light), Sanjirusi-Harada san (Mr. Harada-of the trade mark
Three), Take-bun san (Mr. Courageous-shares), San-mitu san
(Mr. Three-fullness). . ."
As the auctioneer was reading the names of the successful
bidders smoothly and swiftly, I kept on fighting with the
continuous raining invoice books. There were so many illeg-
ible names and figures.
At the point when I had written a bunch of invoice slips
ready to go, I had to get out of the shack and pass them to a
little picker who would be waiting besides the piled up boxes
of dried herring. All of the handling of the delivery were done
by little pickers.
The writings of the invoice slips didn't proceed at all. Fish
dealers tend to hustle generally, and in a short period of time,
light ones hired for middlemen started to gather around the
The shack had an inside lock. The light ones started to
pound at the door. Others climbed up to the small window at
the back of the auctioneer's stage, and stuck their faces and
hand hooks inside.
"Hey, you son of a bitch! Hurry up with that writing. I
say!" said the very rude ones.
Some were not rude at all and they didn't seem to care
about the time. They would just ask, "Hey, was my bidding
'The small pickers also came. They asked something like,
"Hey! There's a cargo truck that's ready to go since last night.
Can we deliver the goods to it?"
"Wait a minute Give me the time to write!" I said to all of
"You shut up your mouth and keep your writing hands
busy!" replied one of the rude light ones.
"Yes, yes, just as you say! But still you have to wait for a
"I don't care, because it's your responsibility but the truck's
leaving, you see."
"Hey, how's our bid?"
"Hey, wait! Wait, a minute!"
"Keep on moving your hands you fucker!"
Noisy and messy days at the market continued for a while.