Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Women are increasing their presence in Tokyo’s major wholesale fish market, which has long been considered a workplace for men.
More women participate in auctions at the new Toyosu Market, which replaced the now-defunct Tsukiji Market in October last year, and work as sushi chefs in the capital of Japan.
Mao Nakajima, 31, works for intermediary wholesale company Hicho in the Toyosu Market, influenced by her grandfather who was an intermediary wholesaler at Tsukiji.
She examines southern bluefin tuna and other fish and places bids.
Intermediary wholesalers fillet tuna weighing more than 70 kilograms and sell pieces to buyers from eateries who visit the Toyosu Market in search of ingredients.
“It’s fun to select and bid for tuna, imagining how the fish would be decorated on a plate at a restaurant,” Nakajima says.
According to a group of intermediary wholesalers in the market, “There were hardly any female bidders before.”
An increasing number of women work at wholesale companies that sell fish on to intermediary wholesalers and others.
According to the Tokyo metropolitan government, there was “no woman certified as an auctioneer until around 15 years ago.” Now there are seven female auctioneers in the market.
Tomoko Inoue, 35, has 10 years of work experience at Toyosu wholesaler Tsukiji Uoichiba Co. She handles seaweeds such as wakame seaweed and kombu kelp from Miyagi Prefecture, hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“I want to expand sales channels for producers who continue making shipments after recovering from the disaster,” Inoue says.
One female sushi chef who buys fish regularly in the market is Yuki Chizui, 32. She is the manager of a popular sushi restaurant in the Akihabara district in Tokyo, from its opening in August 2010.
The sushi eatery, Nadeshico Sushi, employing only female sushi chefs, offers colorful plates of otsukuri sliced raw fish decorated with vegetables.
Chizui has taught sushi-making techniques to more than 100 women including part-time workers.
Due to its location in Akihabara, a hub of Japanese subcultures, “customers sometimes come to the eatery with the misconception it is a maid cafe,” Chizui says. In maid cafes, women dressed in maid costumes serve food and drinks to customers as if they are their masters.