Japan’s historic Tsukiji market holds final New Year auction

Japan's historic Tsukiji market holds final New Year auction
Japan’s historic Tsukiji market holds final New Year auction

Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji fish market held its last pre-dawn New Year’s auction on Friday before closing down for relocation, with the highest bidder paying more than $320,000 for a giant tuna.

After more than 80 years in operation, the world’s biggest fish market, a popular tourist attraction in an area packed with restaurants and shops, will move to Toyosu, a former gas plant a bit further east, on October 11.

The market, which opened in 1935, is best known for its pre-dawn daily auctions of tuna, caught from all corners of the ocean, for use by everyone from top Michelin-star sushi chefs to ordinary grocery stores.

Before dawn, buyers in rubber boots inspected 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 5:30 am, auctioneers rang handbells to signal the start of the auction and buyers began a flurry of bidding with hand signals for their preferred tunas.

“We have to continue the Tsukiji brand and establish a new brand” at the new site, Shigeo Yokota, the representative of buyers at Tsukiji, said in his New Year speech.

“I’m proud to be standing here at this historic moment,” he added.

The highest bidder paid 36.5 million yen for a bluefin tuna — a threatened species — weighing more than 400 kilogrammes (880 pounds) caught off northern Aomori prefecture, according to the market.

“It’s the best feeling,” Akifumi Sakagami, head chef at a sushi restaurant in the Ginza shopping district which paid for the tuna, told AFP after the giant fish was sliced into several pieces for delivery.

“We wanted to get the number-one tuna at the first auction of the year at Tsukiji… because this is the last New Year auction,” he said, adding that the restaurant owner had a budget of 100 million yen ($886,000).

“Tsukiji is the world’s number-one fish market. It’s in a very convenient location. It’s sad that it will be closed down,” Sakagami said.

Source : News Agencies