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Tsukiji market's last days: Telephone switchboard connecting fishy calls

An old-style telephone switchboard with rows of cords and see-through cases is seen in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, on Aug. 30, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- Countless cords extend from row upon row of the transparent cases of an old-style telephone switchboard, tucked away in a room in Tsukiji market.

This equipment is used to connect calls to the switchboard number to wholesaler's shops and offices.

Mie Hashimoto, 60, and three other switchboard operators work as a team to patch through over 3,000 calls a day. The operators "just concentrate on receiving and connecting" the calls to the some 2,000 extension numbers that they know by heart.

The calls are mostly from wholesalers. They call up operators just to ask other wholesalers inside the market fish-related questions like, "Do you have three saury left?" Hashimoto said, "It's very Tsukiji-like" for wholesalers to avoid going through the trouble of searching up extension numbers by calling up her team instead.

The old telephone switchboard will be left here, as the extension system will not be carried over to the new market in Toyosu. For the time being, Hashimoto and the others will instead tell callers the direct number of the person they're contacting.

(Japanese original by Akiyo Ichikawa, City News Department)

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

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