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Jesse in Japan: Reporter's Notebook - 11/5/99
By Martin Kaste

OKAY, I WENT TO the fish market after all. It seems my body hasn't completely overcome the 15-hour time shift, and I find myself waking up during the pre-dawn hours (lunch time back home, I think. I never sleep through that.) At 4:30 a.m., there's really nothing better to do than go look at a fish market.
See a slideshow tour of the fish market as part of MPR Online's "Jesse in Japan" coverage.

The market feeds 11 million sushi-lovers, and 50,000 workers rub shoulders in acre after acre of fresh food. Much of it has tentacles; some, suction cups. Western tourists are tolerated, although politely brushed back by swinging grappling hooks when we wander too close to the action.

I worry less about the supposed loss of eco-diversity, having seen this place. So many wriggling sea creatures, in shells, spilling out of shells, eating someone else's shell. I bet we don't have names for all of these.

Even better are the local supermarkets. Sparkling clean and ultra-modern, they're stocked to capacity with a dizzying array of over-packaged goods. I think I know now what the East Germans felt like when they took their first stroll through a Western supermarket. Grocery shopping has become my favorite pastime: I load my basket with mysterious snack foods and drinks, then line them up in the hotel room and sample what I've bought.

Dried greenbeans, for example, make excellent salty chips. Tapioca comes out of vending machines. Yesterday I bought something called "Energy In," which promised to keep you going all day. It was a squishy Mylar bag, and I assumed it was some kind of space-age power drink. Instead, it turned out to be a sweetened rice-ball-soup meant to be squeezed down your gullet through the nozzle.

Another favorite: a canned drink called "Sweat." I think I'll open that when I get home.