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The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg
air freight, Akira Okazaki, anti-communist, barriers to entry, Bretton Woods, call centre, creative destruction, Deng Xiaoping, global supply chain, haute cuisine, means of production, Nixon shock, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, telemarketer, trade route, urban renewal
It was long after MacAlpine’s reponse arrived in Tokyo that Akira Okazaki decided to make his way to Canada. Akira Okazaki was born in prewar Japan and spent his pre teen years in Shanghai with a father sent there to represent the Bank of Japan during that country’s imperial occupation of northern China. Kaheita Okazaki had been trained as a lawyer, but he found utopian potential in business; high-school friendships with Chinese students in Japan convinced him that commercial ties between nations could “create peace within Asia.” Once, after learning that his son had sprayed a Chinese boy with a water pistol, Kaheita dragged young Akira across Shanghai so he could apologize—in the formal Japanese style of kneeling on the ground—to his damp victim. In his twenties, Akira Okazaki went to work for Japan Airlines, a company born amid Japan’s postwar recovery and initially so modest that in its first offices, in Ginza, executives sat on tatami mats.
At the time, JAL did not even have flights out of Toronto, but MacAlpine’s assignment was to discover untapped exporters in eastern Canada whose products could be transferred onto Tokyo-bound JAL flights from Vancouver and Los Angeles. His target list included products such as business equipment, chemicals, aircraft parts—nonperishable goods that the industry calls “hard cargo”—that would find willing buyers in booming Japan. The Teletype arrived in late summer from JAL’s headquarters in Tokyo. It was written by Akira Okazaki, whom MacAlpine had never met but knew was the man responsible for uncovering new markets for cargo worldwide. The message had a simple request: What could MacAlpine find out about tunafishing along Canada’s eastern coast? The inquiry confused MacAlpine, who had entered the air-freight business thinking that the one-way problem would be sorted out in a factory, not on a pier. MacAlpine put his other work aside and began making phone calls to local governments in the maritime province.
But no airline has been as deeply committed to the art of high-quality fish transport over the years as Japan Airlines, which, after inventing the modern tuna economy, has come to serve as its de facto flag carrier, as well. In fact, if one squints through the heat haze rising from the Narita macadam, the slice of the Rising Sun flag that fills the tails of incoming JAL planes starts to look like a piece of perfectly cut maguro. In the weeks after the day of the flying fish in August 1972, 173 tuna were shipped from Canada to Tokyo, but Akira Okazaki still had work to do on Prince Edward Island. He had proven the logistical viability of bringing Atlantic bluefin to Tsukiji, but local fishermen remained suspicious of the project. On trips back to Prince Edward Island, Okazaki worked with Albert Griffin and government officials to create a standard profit-sharing system so that Tohsui, Griffin, and the fishermen would all benefit from successful sales.
Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda, Greg Lindsay
3D printing, air freight, airline deregulation, airport security, Akira Okazaki, Asian financial crisis, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, blood diamonds, borderless world, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Clayton Christensen, cleantech, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, digital map, edge city, Edward Glaeser, failed state, food miles, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frank Gehry, fudge factor, full employment, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, global supply chain, global village, gravity well, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, inflight wifi, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, invention of the telephone, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Kangaroo Route, knowledge worker, kremlinology, labour mobility, Marchetti’s constant, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, mass immigration, McMansion, megacity, Menlo Park, microcredit, Network effects, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pink-collar, pre–internet, RFID, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, savings glut, Seaside, Florida, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, sustainable-tourism, telepresence, the built environment, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, thinkpad, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, Tony Hsieh, trade route, transcontinental railway, transit-oriented development, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, walkable city, white flight, white picket fence, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game
Flying Fish The cool chain has the power to make or break a species, whether roses or more exotic candidates—bluefin tuna, for instance. Fifty years ago, sushi was a snack of rice balls pickled in soy sauce and vinegar, while the silvery-skinned fish was so worthless Canadian fishermen regularly dumped their catches in a hole and bulldozed them. Sushi’s elevation to a paragon of freshness and yuppie emblem—headlined by the fatty toro carved from the bluefin’s belly—can be traced to a Japanese Airlines executive named Akira Okazaki. Okazaki worked in the airline’s cargo division in the early 1970s, when his job was to fill the empty bellies of JAL’s 747s on their return legs to Tokyo. The home islands were already overfished by then, and pollution was taking a toll on the seabed. Okazaki hit upon the idea of adapting the cool chain to tuna, converting a nuisance in Nova Scotia into a delicacy in Osaka. On the morning of August 14, 1972—commemorated as “the day of the flying fish”—Okazaki brought five Canadian bluefin to Tsukiji, the fish market in the center of Tokyo.
The scenes detailing how the auctions work are taken from interviews and tours with auction officials (including Henk de Groot), interviews with the staff of Hilverda De Boer (including Aard de Boer), and Amy Stewart’s invaluable Flower Confidential, from which I also gleaned innumerable details about the history of Dutch floriculture and the globalization of the floral industry. Additional details on Kenyan rose farms and the loss of business to Ethiopia were found in “Roses Are Red” (The Economist, February 9, 2008). The path my tulips took through the auctions was explained in an e-mail from Hilverda De Boer’s Chicago representative Susan Tock. And plans for the futuristic Aalsmeer appeared in From Green to Gold. Japan Airlines sent me Akira Okazaki’s final report on the events leading up to “the day of the flying fish,” which also appears in Sasha Issenberg’s The Sushi Economy. Tom Asakawa of NOAA’s Fisheries Service was kind enough to lead me on a tour of Tsukiji. Dane Klinger and Kimiko Narita explained why the Atlantic bluefin tuna is likely doomed in their article “Peak Tuna” (ForeignPolicy.com, February 12, 2010). The combination of the cool chain and everyday low prices willed Chilean farmed salmon into being.