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Japan tuna price soars past $270,000 at New Year auction

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The top-selling tuna at Tokyo's new year auction often sells for eye-popping sums./AFP
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Jan 05, 2023 - 12:34 PM

TOKYO, JAPAN — The top-selling tuna at Tokyo’s traditional New Year auction sold for more than $270,000 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 36.04 million yen ($273,000) for the 212-kilo 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 16.88 million yen, 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 $3.1 million in 2019.

But in recent years, Kimura has held back, citing the pandemic.

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