The Inner Workings of the Zakobacho Fish Market

Kaisen shogyo shochushikan [Comprehensive Guide to Ocean & River Fish].

Many full-page woodcut illus. in the text. 80 folding leaves. Oblong 8vo, orig. wrappers (a little rubbed), orig. block-printed title label on upper cover (largely worn away), new stitching. Osaka: Seitaien, 1837.

First edition and very rare, with no copy in WorldCat (a second edition, appearing in 1849 with a different title, Gyokai nodoku hinbutsuzu ko, is also rare). Osaka, known as the “country’s kitchen,” has always been the gourmand capital of Japan. In 1679, nearly all the fresh fish dealers of Osaka relocated to Sagishima on the Kizu River, the principal water artery of the city. It soon became known as the Zakobacho market, and there, customers had their choice of catches from provinces along the Inland Sea and as far away as Kyushu and Shikoku.

This is a guide to the fish found for sale at Zakobacho. What makes this book so interesting is that it amounts to an exposé of the activities within the fish market. In the preliminary leaves, we learn the real “nitty-gritty” of the fish trade: the two different codes for prices used by fresh fish and preserved fish dealers, the special argot used within the market, financial arrangements (commissions, loans, interest rates, etc.), the politics within the fish wholesalers’ several guilds, the mechanics of bidding on fish (with an explanation of the special notations used on bid sheets), the rules and regulations of the market, a list of the wholesalers, etc.

The main body of the text is devoted to a discussion of about 200 kinds of fish, with 46 full-page fine woodcuts of the fish, shellfish, whales, turtles (and one mermaid!). The text describes how to determine the freshness of each kind of fish, which region produces the best fish, the nutritional qualities of each fish, which are appropriate as gifts to samurai, regional names of fish, poisonous fish, etc.

There is a wonderful double-page woodcut of the Zakobacho market that expresses beautifully the hyper-activity taking place there.

Fine copy with some minor worming, mostly mended. Preserved in a chitsu.

Price: $6,500.00

Item ID: 6908