A Japanese sushi entrepreneur on Saturday set a record by paying a whopping $3.1 million for a bluefin tuna at Tokyo’s new fish market, doubling the previous highest price he paid in 2013.
Kiyoshi Kimura, the owner of the Sushzanmai restaurant chain and self-styled ‘tuna king’, paid more than five times what he had intended to pay for the 278kg fish caught off of Japan’s northern coast, parting with 333.6 million yen ($3.1 million) to win the catch.
“The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did too much,” Mr Kimura told reporters outside the market later.
“I expected it would be between 30 million and 50 million yen, or 60 million yen at the highest, but it ended up five times more.”
Saturday's event was the first New Year auction of the Toyosu market, after the famed Tsukiji fish market shut last year to provide temporary parking for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
The latter was famous for its pre-dawn auctions that saw top chefs and average consumers swoop on the market for tuna caught all over the world.
Mr Kimura had held the record for top price paid for a single fish at the new year's auction for six straight years until 2017. But last year, the owner of a different fish restaurant chain paid the highest price.
After the auction, the fish was taken to one of Sushizanmai's branches located in the old market of Tsukiji.
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Tuna is a lucrative product in Japan where sushi is a staple of the cuisine, but excessive harvesting of the fish is endangering the species, experts have said. Small cuts of tuna can cost dozens of dollars at Tokyo’s high-end fish restaurants.
Bluefin is prized in Japan and known as the “black diamond” to sushi connoisseurs because it is so rare. The scarcity of the produce has driven the price of a single fish to extortionate levels. But Mr Kimura appeared to care little.
“It's the best tuna. I was able to buy a delicious, super fresh tuna,” he proudly told reporters.
“The price was higher than originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna.”