Sun, Oct 07, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Tokyo market holds last tuna auction before move


Prospective buyers inspect tuna at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: AP

Tokyo fishmongers yesterday gathered before dawn for one final tuna auction at the world-famous Tsukiji market before it closed its doors to move to a new site.

It was an emotional moment for veterans of the market, the beating heart of Tokyo’s culinary scene for decades, which many acknowledged had become too rundown to support its mammoth operations.

“I’m almost crying,” said Hisao Ishii, a retired seafood auctioneer who was at the market for its final day.

“Today is a sad day of goodbyes. Tsukiji tried to meet the times, but it is getting older,” the 68-year-old told reporters. “I came here today to tell Tsukiji thank you and goodbye.”

In the weak, early-morning sun, traders filed into a warehouse for the last tuna auction, an indispensable ritual in Tokyo’s culinary world and a major tourist draw.

Hundreds of fresh and frozen tuna tagged with their weight and port of origin were laid out in lines in a refrigerated warehouse as buyers in rubber boots quietly inspected the wares.

They rubbed slices between their fingers and shone torches into the fish, swapping information with rivals before the showdown began.

At 6am, handbells rang to signal that the auction was under way and the air filled with the sound of auctioneers yelling prices at buyers, who raised fingers to indicate interest.

The highest bidder at yesterday’s auction paid ¥4.4 million (US$38,700) for a bluefin tuna weighing 162kg caught off Aomori, northern Japan, the market said.

It was far below the record ¥155.4 million paid at the first auction of 2013.

Buyers traditionally offer eye-watering prices as a “New Year gratuity” when the market resumes operations after winter holidays.

Fish wholesaler Takeshi Yoshida said that Tsukiji had left “its mark on history,” but it was time to “pass the baton.”

Tsukiji’s inner market, known as “Japan’s Kitchen,” is to move to Toyosu, a site in eastern Tokyo, where operations are to begin on Thursday.

“It will be the first massive move in our history,” said Hiroyasu Ito, chair of the market association. “We want to club together and get through it.”

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