TOKYO (AFP) – The top-selling tuna at Tokyo’s traditional New Year auction sold for more than USD270,000 on Thursday, nearly double last year’s price, breaking a pandemic trend of slumping demand.
Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Onodera Group and Japanese wholesaler Yamayuki forked out JPY36.04 million (USD273,000) for the 212-kilogramme bluefin tuna in the auction at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market.
The figure was still only a fraction of the 2019 record price but marks a recovery for the symbolic auction after three years in which prices slumped.
“It has all the qualities of a good tuna,” sushi master and Onodera head chef Akifumi Sakagami told reporters after the auction.
“We have had years of gloom (during the pandemic). I hope that we can deliver happiness to everyone by using opportunities like this.”
Last year’s top-selling tuna, bought by the same pair of bidders, went for just JPY16.88 million, with observers blaming subdued demand as a COVID wave ripped through Japan in early 2022.
The New Year auction is highly anticipated, and securing the top-priced tuna offers bidders bragging rights.
For years, the top bid came from self-proclaimed “Tuna King” Kiyoshi Kimura, who paid a record USD3.1 million in 2019.
But in recent years, Kimura has held back, citing the pandemic.