National

Record ¥333.6 million paid for giant tuna at Toyosu market's first New Year's tuna auction

AFP-JIJI

A sushi entrepreneur paid a record ¥333.6 million for a giant tuna Saturday as Tokyo’s new Toyosu fish market, which replaced the world-famous Tsukiji late last year, held its first pre-dawn auction of the new year.

Bidding stopped at the whopping price of about $3.1 million for the enormous 278-kg (612-pound) fish — an endangered species — that was caught off Japan’s northern coast.

Self-styled “Tuna King” Kiyoshi Kimura paid the top price, which more than doubled the previous record of ¥155 million from 2013.

“I bought a good tuna,” Kimura said after the auction.

“The price was higher than originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna.”

Tsukiji — the world’s biggest fish market and a popular tourist attraction in an area packed with restaurants and shops — moved in October to Toyosu, a former gas plant a bit further east.

Opened in 1935, Tsukiji was best known for its pre-dawn daily auctions of tuna caught from all corners of the world and used by everyone from top Michelin-starred sushi chefs to ordinary grocery stores.

Wholesalers and sushi tycoons have been known to pay eye-watering prices for the biggest and best fish, particularly at the first auction of the new year.

Despite the relocation, the auction ritual remained intact: before dawn, buyers in rubber boots were inspecting the quality of the giant fresh and frozen tunas by examining the neatly cut tail end with flashlights and rubbing slices between their fingers.

At 5:10 a.m., hand bells rang to signal the auction was underway and the air filled with the sound of auctioneers yelling prices at buyers, who raised fingers to indicate interest.

“Finally, the first New Year’s auction was held at Toyosu market,” said Yoshihiko Otaki, a market official.

“We have a lot of tuna here like we did in Tsukiji,” he said.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said: “I sincerely hope this market will be loved by many people.”

The relocation was a lengthy and controversial process.

Few would contest the fact that Tsukiji was past its prime, and there were concerns about outdated fire regulations and hygiene controls.

In contrast, the new market, located around 2 km to the east, boasts state-of-the-art refrigeration facilities and is nearly twice as big as Tsukiji.

But Toyosu is located on the site of a former gas plant and the soil was found to be contaminated, forcing local authorities to spend millions of dollars to clean it up, delaying the move.