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Virus tones down Japan’s annual tuna auction

Virus tones down Japans annual tuna auction


A Japanese wholesaler walks along the lined-up frozen tuna ahead of the New Year’s auction at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Tokyo’s annual New Year tuna auction ended on Tuesday without the usual jaw-dropping bidding war, with the country’s “Tuna King” holding back on gunning for the top fish, citing the coronavirus pandemic woes affecting the restaurant industry.

The most expensive fish of the day — a 208-kilogram bluefin caught off the northern Aomori region of Japan, known for its quality tuna — was bought by another bidder for 20.84 million yen (US$202,000).

That is just a fraction of the millions of dollars that sushi businessman and self-proclaimed “Tuna King” Kiyoshi Kimura has paid in recent years to secure the bragging rights that come with buying the auction’s top tuna.

Last year, Kimura forked out US$1.8 million for a 276kg bluefin, and in 2019 he paid a record US$3.1 million for a 278kg fish.

But Kimura said he wanted to show restraint this year as the raging pandemic has caused so much suffering to restaurants and other businesses.

“I didn’t go for the highest bid this year because this is the time for self-control,” Kimura told journalists who gathered to see him after the pre-dawn auction at the Toyosu fish market. “I didn’t think it was appropriate to go all festive this time.”

Kimura usually uses his purchases to secure national news coverage for himself and his successful sushi chain.

The most expensive tuna this year was acquired jointly by a famous wholesaler named Yukitaka Yamaguchi and a major food business.

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