Tokyo, Japan – Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji fish market held its last pre-dawn New Year’s auction on Friday before closing down for relocation, with the highest bidder paying more than $320,000 for a giant tuna.
After more than 80 years in operation, the world’s biggest fish market, a popular tourist attraction in an area packed with restaurants and shops, will move to Toyosu, a former gas plant a bit further east, on October 11.
The market, which opened in 1935, is best known for its pre-dawn daily auctions of tuna, caught from all corners of the ocean, for use by everyone from top Michelin-star sushi chefs to ordinary grocery stores.
Before dawn, buyers in rubber boots inspected the quality of the giant fresh and frozen tunas by examining the neatly cut tail end with flashlights and rubbing slices between their fingers.
At 5:30 am auctioneers rang handbells to signal the start of the auction and buyers began a flurry of bidding with hand signals for their preferred tunas.
The highest bidder -– whose name was not revealed – paid 36.5 million yen for a tuna weighing more than 400 kilograms (880 pounds) caught off northern Aomori prefecture, according to the market.
“We have to continue the Tsukiji brand and establish a new brand” at the new site, Shigeo Yokota, the representative of buyers, said in his New Year speech.
“I’m proud to be standing here at this historic moment,” he added.
The Tsukiji market handles 480 kinds of seafood worth $14 million daily – as well as 270 types of fruits and vegetables and has fed Japan’s hunger for fresh seafood since its opening.