Fish wholesalers at Tokyo's Toyosu wholesale food market are boosting their online sales activities for products seen at high-end sushi restaurants, such as bluefin tuna and sea urchin.
With opportunities to stay home increasing amid the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic, many consumers are looking to enjoy the taste of high-quality fish from Japan's largest fish market that only chefs and other professionals were able to acquire before.
The sales area of the Toyosu market, where sushi chefs, fish retailers and other professionals purchase their fish, are off-limits to general visitors.
To reach out to the general public, wholesalers and intermediate wholesalers participating in auctions at Toyosu are using e-commerce, which has expanded rapidly amid the coronavirus crisis, to deliver fish straight to consumers.
Chuo Gyorui Co., a wholesaler involved in tuna auctions at Toyosu, tied up with a Tokyo company called Shokubunka, which operates an online shopping website with some 700,000 members, to boost its seafood sales.
The site, which also has ties with intermediate wholesaler Yamaharu Co., offers a variety of products such as blocks of domestic tuna and boxes of sea urchin auctioned off at the market, as well as fresh scallops, salmon roe and boiled crabs.
In late November, the site, called Toyosu Ichiba Dotcom, began selling fresh bluefin tuna from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, that is usually only available at high-end restaurants, ahead of a spike in demand toward the year-end and New Year's holiday period.
"We want to spread information about auctioneers' recommendations and fish in season from Toyosu" through social media offered by Shokubunka, Chuo Gyorui President Haruhiko Ito said, emphasizing the benefits of his company's direct connection with the market.
The Tokyo Fish Market Wholesale Cooperative, a group of some 480 intermediate wholesalers at Toyosu, opened the Inaseri Fish Market, an online shopping site, in May.
The cooperative also has a website for restaurants to buy fish, operated in partnership with an information technology company. The drop in demand for eating out amid the COVID-19 crisis has prompted the group to focus also on selling directly to consumers.
The Inaseri Fish Market offers a set of fresh fish such as mackerel, splendid alfonsino and squid selected by wholesalers as the day's recommendations.
The website also offers a video tutorial on how to clean and fillet fish. Officials say repeat customers are increasing.
"I want people to enjoy the taste of fish used by food professionals at home," said Shigeo Yokota, president of intermediate wholesaler Daimoto Shoten, which sells products through the website.
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