Zen garden with squid: A photo essay

I love fish markets — I always feel like a kid in a candy store, looking for the strange and interesting creatures and parts thereof  hidden on a back shelf or down a back aisle. So I seek them out where’er I go.

I’ve not been to the famed Tokyo fish market I’m afraid, where the giant bluefins go for tens of thousands of dollars (not sure I could have stomached that anyway). Instead I’ve just returned from a visit to Kobe where I had a little time to wander around, and found a fish market in — of all places — the basement of a department store. I was in town for a ceremony to receive the First Kobe Prize in Marine Biology, and went out for the afternoon with the interpreter assigned to me, a personable college student named Seiji. He’s studying freshwater fisheries of southeast Asia so we had a lot of common interests.

One of the perhaps unexpected charms of fish markets is the artistry often on display. And the Japanese are of course legendary for the aesthetics of their presentation — tea, flowers, architecture.

Even fish. And so, a few exhibits:

Still life: Zen garden with squid


Variety pack on ice


Whale bacon. No I'm not making this up. The fine print reads (I'm told) "This whale was captured for scientific research"



A small freshwater salmonid from Japan.


Dried pufferfish (left) and crab (right) for soup



I was served something like this as the equivalent of snack chips in western countries



Another surprise: larvae (or postlarvae) of some sardine or anchovy










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