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FROZEN AT THE WHOLESALE MARKET


The last few weeks of December was a season when there
were so much delivery of fish that I had to wake up at 3 o'clock
in the morning to get to work. I had to check through a
mountain of invoice sheets all day long. At night time, I had
to prepare for the next day. I was always home late to the
dormitory that I almost had no time to take showers, eat or
sleep.
The Tukiji Wholesale Market's space was getting crowded
as the volume of fish dealings increased. Equipment was
getting older year by year. At busy weekends; days before
National holidays; new year preparation seasons; the function
of the Market jammed. Deliveries didn't arrive on time; no
space to stock cargo; the wooden boxes of salmon were piled
up high like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The inconvenience of
the whole Market caused pain to all the people who made their
living there.
One day, probably a Friday of the new year preparation
season, the crowding of the Market was reaching a peak. The
light one of Touto Marine Products had been out for delivery
and didn't come back for long hours. He must have been stuck
in a crowd like the Jingu Shrine on New Year Eve's night:
stopping step by step.
An order from a customer that needed a rush delivery
occurred. The light one still wasn't back, so I had to carry the
two boxes of 10 kilogram salted herring roe by myself on my
shoulder and deliver it to a middleman's shop.
In the Market where the middlemen's shops gather, there
was a street called "Number Five Main Street," and it was
very crowded. I got completely stuck there. The street was
80 meters long and 3 meters wide. Many people were in the
same situation as me, rolling as a whole like a big ship. The
air was humid. Hasty looking faces moved there nervously.
The only thing that the people could do was to bear it with
their mouths shut tight.
The cause of the jam was unknown, but maybe somebody
was discharging fish in front of some middleman's shop; or,
cat wheels that carry huge lumps of frozen tuna meat quite
easily drop them, so that kind of thing might have been ob-
structing the traffic.
When cat wheels drop their cargo and lose their balance,
the remaining cargo of slippery ice-frozen tuna slip and gather
to the rear. Light ones are flipped up into the air: the wheels
becoming fulcrums like a seesaw. Once, I had actually seen
that kind of scene, but nobody complained. Instead of com-
plaining, someone held the remains of the tuna meat on the
cat wheel. If not, all of the remainder would drop off, which
would make the light one crash down to earth.
Someone else started to pick up the frozen tuna meat from
the ground with his hand hook to load it back on the cat wheel.
The end of the seesaw on the same side as the light one regained
its gravity and the light one in the air, gently came down on
the ground.
The 20 kilograms of herring roe were starting to bite into
my shoulders. I had been standing there for more than 5
minutes then. I was almost about to drop the 16 hundred dollar
worth of herring roe, contained in neat boxes, on the salt water
wet floor.
Two or three persons' hands came out of the crowd and
supported me. They were people whose names I had never
known, nor talked to before.
It wasn't so long until finally the crowd broke. I became
free to move and started to the middleman's shop again.


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