ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
Japan-Update

Bluefin tuna fetches 4-year high of $636,000 at Tsukiji's new year auction

Sushizanmai clinches 212kg fish ahead of rivals

The successful bid at this year's first bluefin tuna auction at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market on Jan. 5 came to $636,000.

TOKYO -- In the first tuna auction of 2017 at Tokyo's Tsukiji wholesale fish market on Thursday, a 212kg bluefin tuna from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, in northern Japan fetched 74.2 million yen ($636,000), the highest price in four years.

That translates to around $3,000 per kilogram, five times more expensive than the highest price at last year's first auction.

It was the highest bid since 2013, when a tuna was sold for a record $1.33 million.

Kiyomura, the operator of the Sushizanmai chain of restaurants, ended up winning the auction for the sixth straight year amid tough bidding. Prices rose amid competition from rivals Tsukiji Sushiko and Genki Sushi, which took part in the New Year's auction for the first time.

"It was a tough auction because of our rivals," said Kiyomura President Kiyoshi Kimura. 

Scant haul

Overall, however, prices did not go as high as before. There were only 1,523 tuna, fresh and frozen, at the auction, the lowest number in a decade and 13% less than last year.

"Fish weighing 100kg or less were about 20% cheaper than last year," said an official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

After withdrawing from the top race against Kiyomura, Sushiko bid for a tuna for about $43,000. "We are happy to have won a good quality tuna for an appropriate price in this year's first auction," a Sushiko official said.

In the first auction of every year, potential buyers tend to bid higher than at ordinary auctions, as a way of giving a "tip" to the market operators.

At last year's first auction, a bluefin tuna caught off Oma fetched the highest bid of $120,000, or $600 per kilogram, up 180% from 2015. Kiyomura won that auction. 

At this year's New Year auction, Genki Sushi stood in the way of Kiyomura, which has been the dominant bidder for many years. Masuo Fujio, chairman of Genki Sushi, said, "Amid the underlying force of deflation, the eatery business sector is facing a tough environment. I hope our participation in the bidding war will help enliven the mood of the industry."

The outcome of the first auction "is considerably affected by weather conditions at the year-end and New Year holiday period," said an official at Tohto Suisan, a Tokyo wholesaler of marine products, which supplies the Tsukiji market. At the end of December 2016, very few squid -- bait used to lure high-quality tuna -- were caught in and around the Tsugaru Strait, and this limited the supply of tuna to the market.

In 2013, the $1.33 million winning bid cost roughly $6,000 per kilogram, making it the most expensive tuna ever. At that price, "it is possible to buy a boatload of tuna," said an executive at Chuo Gyorui, a Tokyo wholesaler of marine products. The price translates into a hand-rolled sushi made of the tuna costing $860. That year, the operator of the Sushizanmai chain and Itamae Sushi (a rival sushi chain based in Hong Kong) bid up prices to dizzying heights, eventually allowing Sushizanmai to win the bidding battle. In 2014, Itamae Sushi dropped out of the game altogether, and the highest bid came to only $275 per kilogram.

(Nikkei)

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends July 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to Nikkei Asia has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more