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Tsukiji market's last days: End of the ice (block) age

Blocks of ice slide along the floor after an iron mold tipped them out. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- An iron mold tips, and great blocks of ice slide across the floor, to be hooked by a worker in a T-shirt, sweat glistening on his brow as he guides the 150-kilogram hunks of ice.

Some 450 blocks a day are made at two ice plants in Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, for chilling fish and keeping them fresh. The water is cleansed of contaminants and frozen on the molds for two days. The result is blocks of ice that are as clear as glass and slow to melt.

As wooden boxes for shipping seafood have disappeared in favor of Styrofoam, the ice blocks have become less important. Moreover, there are brand new ice machines at Tsukiji's successor market of Toyosu in Tokyo's Koto Ward, and the Tsukiji ice blocks will soon be a thing of the past.

A veteran who has been making the blocks for 30 years said, "I feel sad, but then we also took work away from old folks in the past. The times are changing, and it can't be helped."

(Japanese original by Akiyo Ichikawa, City News Department)

* This series introduces scenes from the last days of the Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, which is scheduled to end 83 years of history when it closes for relocation to the new Toyosu site in the capital's Koto Ward on Oct. 6, 2018.

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