Massive tuna nets $3.1 million at Japan auction

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Kiyoshi Kimura, president of sushi restaurant chain Sushi Zanmai, displays a 612 pound bluefin tuna at one of his restaurants.

"I bought a good tuna", said the self-styled "Tuna King" Kimura.

Sushi entrepreneur Kiyoshi Kimura paid the top price, which doubled the previous record of 155 million paid in 2013.

Last year's auction was the last at Tsukiji before the market shifted to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay.

Despite the relocation, the auction ritual remained intact: before dawn, buyers in rubber boots were inspecting the quality of the giant fresh and frozen tunas by examining the neatly cut tail end with flashlights and rubbing slices between their fingers.

Prospective buyers inspect the quality of tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, the new site of Tokyo's fish market, on January 5, 2019, in Tokyo.

The rise in price was even noted by the auction victor and sushi-tycoon, Kimura when he was interviewed by the Japanese broadcaster NHK.

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The auction price was a record for both a total bid as well as kilogram price.

He told The Guardian: "The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is".

A single piece of "otoro", or the fish's fatty underbelly, can cost dozens of dollars at high-end Tokyo restaurants.

The price was pushed up by fierce bidding between Kiyomura and Yamayuki, an intermediate wholesaler that placed the highest bid at the first auction of the year in 2018 at the Tsukiji fish market.

"We received a major boost that goes beyond a congratulatory gift of money for the first New Year's auction after Toyosu opened", said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike after observing the auction.

The new market at Toyosu has already opened a balcony allowing visitors to witness the organised pre-dawn chaos in an attempt to attract tourists who previously visited Tsukiji.

The relocation was delayed by nearly two years as Tokyo had to deal with soil and air contamination and other issues at Toyosu, which formerly housed a gas production plant.

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