Japan’s ‘Tuna King’ wins annual auction, netting single bluefin for ¥74.2 million

AFP-JIJI

Japan’s self-styled “Tuna King” has done it again — paying ¥74.2 million ($636,000) for a single fish.

Sushi entrepreneur Kiyoshi Kimura paid top price at the first auction of the new year at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market on Thursday, bagging a prized bluefin tuna.

The head of the Sushi Zanmai chain is now the proud — if temporary — owner of a 212-kilogram fish.

At that price a single piece of fatty tuna sushi would cost roughly ¥9,900, or 25 times the ¥400 that Kimura charges for the product at his 51 stores across Japan.

“I feel it was a bit expensive, but I am happy that I was able to successfully win at auction a tuna of good shape and size,” Kimura said.

Kimura has built his successful chain into a national brand by paying big money at Tsukiji’s first auction every year — he has now won for six straight years — essentially using the event for publicity.

He paid a record ¥155.4 million for a bluefin — a threatened species — at the New Year auction in 2013, outbidding a rival bidder from Hong Kong.

Last year, he faced no formidable rival and paid about ¥14 million for a 200-kilogram tuna.

The prices may seem enormous, but Kimura makes sure to get the most out of his money.

Every year, the boisterous auction, which takes place in the early morning hours, makes national headlines.

On Thursday, Kimura made the rounds of Japan’s major networks, telling viewers the tuna will be cut and distributed among his restaurants.

The 2017 auction could be the last at Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market.

It was originally supposed to move to a new location in November, but the plan was put on hold until at least late this year over concerns about toxic contamination at the new site.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said in November that the move could even be delayed until the “spring of 2018” depending on results of health and environmental tests.

But she also held out the possibility of scrapping the relocation altogether.