Yutaka Kadono, 80, was supposed to retire from his business as an intermediate wholesaler at the Tsukiji fish market last October.
Kadono has glaucoma in his left eye, which means it takes more time to judge a good fish, prompting him to decide to throw in the towel.
But after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike decided to shelve the relocation of Tsukiji to the Toyosu district over fears of soil pollution there, his plan was dashed. Sushi restaurants and other clients who have relied on Kadono’s expertise begged him to stay just a little longer.
“I owe it to my clients for supporting me throughout the years,” Kadono said. “I’ll stay on until the relocation issue is resolved.”
For more than six decades since he graduated from junior high school, Kadono has been working at Tsukiji. And what he has witnessed through the years is the history of Tsukiji itself.
After the 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll, fallout contaminated the catches of many fishing boats — a heavy blow to the market. During the rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 70s, Tsukiji enjoyed a boost in business. Now Tsukiji is a popular site for foreign tourists.
At 4 a.m. on a cold December morning, Kadono, as usual, was walking through rows of tuna to look for the best fish, at times rubbing his left eye.
“I am just doing what I need to do for my clients,” Kadono said.