Sunday, March 28, 2010

What do blue fin tuna and the US Ambassador have in common?

Day 5:

This was by far one of my favorite days of the entire trip. It started out relatively early. We had to take several trains to get to Tsukiji. It’s the world’s largest fish market. They carry over 450 different types of fish. It’s quite the sight to see. I had never seen a lot of the things they had on display. Once we arrived we all went our own ways to explore the market. One of my classrooms described it as a labyrinth of fish and seafood. She was correct. Every which way there were fish, and of all types: some were fresh, some dried, some a part of sushi and some fried. It was great; many of the booths even gave out samples as you pass by. I couldn’t be as adventurous as I would have liked because I didn’t want to get sick, but what I tried was very good.

After walking around for a bit the group randomly reconvened outside a restaurant. We still had about half an hour until we needed to meet up, so it was funny we all ended up in the same place. Even more coincidental was the fact that there was a blue fin tuna slicing demonstration going on right there. While we were in Japan there were talks at the United Nations to put a ban on selling blue fin tuna. Apparently, some animal advocacy groups believe that the species might be extinct by 2012. The morning we headed to Tsukiji I happened to be watching a news report on CNN about the potential ban. It said that about 80% of blue fin tuna is consumed in Japan alone. Needless to say the Japanese were not very happy about this potential ban.

All of a sudden, a CNN crew showed up to film the tuna being sliced. It was really funny considering they were standing next to and then even interviewing journalist students. Two of my classmates were interviewed and one made the final cut. Seeing the tuna sliced was really cool. It was huge and ironically, it was caught right off the coast of Spain. I took a few photos with the CNN journalist, Kyung Lah, and mentioned to her how I had watched a clip on CNN about the blue fin tuna that morning. She chuckled and told me it had been her report.

Here’s the clip:

After the tuna slicing, we were ready to consume some tuna of our own so we headed to lunch. The entire group went to what is supposedly one of the best sushi restaurants at the market. It lived up to its name. It was really good. I have no clue what I was eating, but I enjoyed most of it.

At the restaurant we had to remove our shoes before stepping on the wood floors and there were lockers where you could put your shoes. If you entered the bathroom you had to put on these special slippers. My feet were about 5 sizes too big, but I made it work. I had tried on a pair of shoes in a shoe store I had passed the day before and the biggest size, LL, wasn’t even close to fitting!

From lunch we headed to the US embassy to speak with David Marks (who I mentioned earlier.) He’s the press attaché at the embassy. It was great to speak with him. He’s an incredibly intelligent man. He graduated from IU with a master’s in Russian Literature and he speaks something like four or five different languages. He spoke about his time in the Foreign Service and it really sparked my interest. He’s lived all around the world and his next posting is in Kabul. It sounds like that will be an adjustment from Tokyo. During this meeting, we also had an opportunity to speak with ABC reporter Margaret Conley. It was really interesting to hear her stories about being an American living in Japan and the things she’s gone through in the journalism field. As if these two speakers weren’t amazing enough, we also got to speak with John V. Roos, the US ambassador to Japan. It was really cool to hear how he became ambassador. He even allowed us to visit his residence. The Tokyo ambassador’s residence was the first US ambassador’s residence that was built specifically for an ambassador. It was a really beautiful building. I was tempted to sign the guest book, but thought it would be best for the school if I didn’t.

I was exhausted after such a full day, so I just returned to the hotel. It was the second group’s turn to have dinner with the professionals, so I was on my own. I met up with three other girls in the group to wonder around for dinner. We ventured to the other side of the train station and ended up an Irish pub. It was a multicultural evening. I was in Japan at an Irish pub, eating Italian food. You’ve got to love globalization.

It ended up being a later dinner, so we were all happy to just go back to the hotel to pass out. We didn’t want to be tired for our last day in Nihon!


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