New Year's Tuna Sells for $118K
80-year-old Tokyo tradition is about to change
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2016 12:11 AM CST
A child pretends to be a prospective buyer inspecting the quality of frozen tuna before the first auction of the year at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.    (Eugene Hoshiko)
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(Newser) – It's among the biggest of Japan's many New Year holiday rituals: Early on Tuesday, a huge, glistening tuna was auctioned for 14 million yen, around $118,000, at Tokyo's 80-year-old Tsukiji market. Sushi restaurateur Kiyoshi Kimura has prevailed in most of the recent new year auctions, and he did so again this year in the bidding for a 440-pound tuna. In 2013, a bidding war drove his record winning bid to 154.4 million yen—at today's exchange rates about $1.3 million—for a 490-pound fish. That drew complaints that prices had soared way out of line, and the winning prices in 2014 and 2015 were dramatically lower.

The auction is typical of Japan's penchant for fresh starts at the beginning of the year—the first visit of the year to a shrine and the first dream of the year are other important firsts—and it's meant to set an auspicious precedent for the 12 months to come. Next year, if all goes as planned, the tuna tradition won't be quite the same. The world's biggest and most famous fish and seafood market is due to move in November to a massive complex further south in Tokyo Bay, making way for redevelopment of the prime slice of downtown real estate.