The US$1.75 million bluefin tuna was bought by none other than the president of a popular sushi chain.  

If you’ve been to the tuna auction at the Toyosu Fish Market…well chances are you may not have been that impressed. People say it’s worth going to on a trip to Japan, but it’s not really that fun to get up at three in the morning to watch a bunch of people silently examine specimens of giant fish and then bid on them. But there’s one time of year that the tuna auction gets a lot of attention: the hatsuseri, or first wholesale fish auction of the year.

Lots of people gather to see the biggest tuna for sale, and to find out who will buy it, and for how much. This year is especially remarkable because it’s not only the first auction of the year, but also the first hatsuseri of the Reiwa era! Reiwa’s first biggest catch of the year was a 276-kilogram (608.5-pound) bluefin tuna, caught off the shores of Oma in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan, an area known for its high-quality tuna.

▼ Large crowds gathered this year to see the hatsuseri and the biggest catch of 2020.

The bidding process works like this: after carefully checking out the quality of the fish and testing for the fatty quality of the meat and the flavor, each of the industry experts–working for different restaurants and retailers–bid with hand gestures as the auctioneer calls out the totals. Check out the video below to see how it works. Though the auction itself only lasts for a few minutes, it’s still an interesting sight to see!

Amazingly, the winning bid for this fish was 70,000 yen per kilogram, for a total of 193.2 million yen (or about US$1.75 million), the second highest in history. The buyer was Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the popular nationwide sushi chain Sushi Zanmai, which lauds itself as the “King of Tuna”. In the video, you can see him initially checking out the fish with his associates, while later on a representative bids for him. He’s often at the forefront of the hatsuseri tuna sales, and never hesitates to drop a pretty penny on some good fish. Last year he spent 333.6 million yen!

▼ Mr. Kimura posing with his win.

At 2 p.m. that day, as Mr. Kimura proudly stood over the fish in front of the main branch of Sushi Zanmai in Tsukiji, he dedicated the purchase to his friend and fellow tuna-lover, actor and businessman Tatsuo Umemiya, who passed away last month. “He loved tuna, and he loved cooking. He was a good friend. I would have most wanted him to try it,” he said.

Passersby could stop and watch as Mr. Kimura dissected the fish in front of his Tsukiji restaurant, and the full house of customers inside were able to order one piece each of fresh, delicious nigiri tuna straight from the fish. A piece of Otoro nigiri, the highest quality, fattiest meat from the belly of the tuna, was only 398 yen (US$3.67). According to one Tokyo businessman, “The fat just melted in your mouth, it was so good. It’s the year of the Tokyo Olympics, so I want use the power of this tuna to support our athletes!”

The video, by the way, says that the fishermen who catch the tuna that go on auction get about 89 percent of the auction price. That means Akihito Yamamoto, the 57-year-old fishermen who caught this one, earned about 170 million yen on this tuna catch! What would you do with all of that money? Sadly, it looks like Mr. Yamamoto is going to use it to pay his debts, so he’s still going to have to be like the rest of us broke folk and use our crafty method of turning cheap cuts of fish into delicious morsels instead of buying expensive otoro sushi, at least until we strike it rich.

Source: @niftynews, Kahoku Shinpo
Featured image:: Twitter/@zanmai_man

● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!