Last auction of the New Year at the market of Tsukiji

Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi Agence France-Presse
Buyers inspect carefully the quality of the tuna market of Tsukiji, in the heart of Tokyo.

Tokyo — The Tsukiji fish market, the heart of Tokyo, was held on Friday morning, its final auction of the New Year before moving on to the fall, a very controversial repeatedly postponed.


80 years old, Tsukiji, top tourist place, must be moved in October to an area more eccentric of the bay of the capital city, in the district of Toyosu.


The ritual, widely publicized, of the first auction of bluefin tuna of the year was, therefore, this Friday, a quite particular flavour.


Gathered before dawn in a large hangar where there were impressive giant tuna, both fresh and frozen, buyers, rubber boots at the foot, have it inspected thoroughly the quality of the goods before the kick-off of the sale at 5: 30 p.m. (Thursday, 20: 30 GMT), with the sound of a bell.


The tuna the more expensive


Despite the challenge, the record of 2013 (155,4 million yen) has not been beaten. The tuna the more expensive, caught off Aomori prefecture (north), has been awarded at a price of 36.5 million yen (approximately 400 630 $) for a weight exceeding 400 kg.


“It is a very good feeling,” said Akifumi Sakagami, head chef of the sushi restaurant who has paid the amount, after having tasted the dishes under the flashes of photographers.


“We wanted to win the best tuna, because it is the last auction of the New Year here,” he explained, noting that his boss was ready to go up to 100 million yen (1 098 619 $).


And to add, with a hint of nostalgia : “It is sad that Tsukiji closes soon. “


Kiyoshi Kimura, the owner of the famous restaurant chain Sushizanmai, who had won the bet last six years, which has earned him the nickname of ” king of tuna “, this time made more discreet, but it has spent the sum of 30 million yen for a bluefin tuna of 190 kg, the highest price per kilo.


Opened in 1935, Tsukiji, located in the upscale area of Ginza, is the largest market of seafood products and vegetables of the world : it welcomes every day some 42,000 visitors and offers 480 types of fish, 270 variety of fruits and vegetables, for a total of 3000 tons of goods and one recipe for everyday of a dozen million euros.


A move repeatedly postponed


Dilapidated, unsanitary and hazardous in the event of an earthquake, it is promised since years of moving, but this last one, which was originally scheduled to take place in November 2016, had been postponed, yet again, due to health problems on the site in Toyosu where there was previously a gas works.


The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, had ordered additional tests in the wake of his election in mid-2016. She ultimately decided in favor of a move, scheduled for 11 October 2018, despite the opposition of some traders, who are very attached to Tsukiji, and many restaurateurs in the area.


“We have the responsibility to build a brand new, factory” Toyosu “, while preserving the legacy of Tsukiji, ” said Friday, Shigeo Yokota, representative of the wholesale market, on the occasion of the auction. “I am proud to have been able to take part in this historic turning point, and I firmly decided to write a new page with you all. “


At the same time, Tsukiji will not disappear. The site would be rehabilitated in a period of five years for commercial use, type theme park food or retail space and restaurants.