This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Tsukiji, kabuki and giraffes / 28 August 2014

It's the biting season, hot and humid with the electric fizz of cicadas interfering with my tinnitus. I make a second foray to the river - passing a gigantic hole in the ground where a new building will shortly enhance the space. The earth is a rich dark brown, almost black in places; the river itself is less red-brown, more grey today.
I decide to roll on into Tsukiji, the Tokyo fish market, and maybe further to reacquaint myself with the new Kabuki theatre and Wako - surely the most boring department store in the land, yet boasting some of the most creative shop windows.
I pass another wheelborne person on the way. I also get addressed by several Japanese men who separately enquire how I am and if I need assistance. Maybe I look lost; actually I'm feeling right at home on this familiar route.
Subtle changes in the area around the Tsukiji fish market remind me that the inner market is set to move; the Olympics being the catalyst that will set this much debated happening in motion. I notice that the area is going slowly up-market - in keeping with its surroundings: designer shops and the theatre.

The new Kabuki-za has settled in well; it is very similar to the old one, a designated Tangible Cultural Property, which it replaced last year. Replaced because the old theatre was worn out (possibly unsafe in an earthquake) and did not offer barrier-free access. I can find no translated information about the performance, but judging from the posters this is a much darker piece than the one I saw last year.

I roll on into Ginza and the Wako window. It is 'peopled' by very large black and gold giraffes; their hoofed legs are black at the bottom and stand out in the gold space. Their bodies are out of sight, but their gold decorated necks dip down into the window space so that their heads are also visible.
It's hard to tell, but they may be made of card or paper...

It starts to rain and I begin my return journey. At the next road crossing a Japanese man holds his umbrella over me and attempts a conversation. I insist I am ok in the rain, but he persists. Happily he is ready to say goodbye just before we get to the river and it is then I discover my camera is missing. I had it in my lap after photographing the giraffes, it will have slid off and I was a little too stressed to notice.

The quirky little inaccessible mysteries
are disappearing. Steps up, steps down, levelled out
in favour of smooth, modern marble; and beaded curtains
gone for sliding doors. Tiny spaces suddenly wider.
Tsukiji begins to mirror Ginza, and the prices
surely follow. The accessible environment has
glass and marble homogeneity, succumbs to
market values, commercial viability. The
magic of early morning sushi will be just beyond
reach when Tsukiji market moves to clean marble halls
out on an island with no history. The atmosphere
of life changes to make way for new people, for new
ways to be Japanese. For new ways to be tourist.