You won't find a more famous fish in the whole of Tokyo. On January 4, a 222kg bluefin tuna sold for a jaw-dropping ¥155.4 million (£1.1 million) in the first tuna auction of the year at Tsukiji fish market. It's become an annual custom for sushi restaurants to blow outrageous sums of money at the event, vying to land the prestigious first bluefin of the New Year (nicknamed the 'black diamond' by some), but the latest auction set a new record. The buyer, Kiyomura Co, managed once again to outbid the Hong Kong-based Itamae Sushi, its rival in the 2012 sale – though it had to stump up the equivalent of ¥700,000 per kilo to do so, nearly three times what it paid last year.
Following the auction, the prize fish was transported to the main branch of Kiyomura's Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain and, as is customary, served at the regular price of ¥130-¥400 per serving. Business Week estimated that the company could lose as much as ¥154 million on the sale, though it's already recouped much of that cost through the lavish news coverage that it received.
If this all seems a bit wasteful to you, you aren't the only one – and sushi restaurants who'd rather not indulge in such wanton profligacy have other options. The Gatten Sushi chain scored the top fish in the first auction of the year at Shizuoka's Central Wholesale Market, a rather less hectic affair in which 60 fresh and 200 frozen tuna were up for grabs. The prize 70kg bluefin was caught in the same waters as Tsukiji's headline-hogging tuna, but its price was considerably lower: a mere ¥887,000 (£6,300), or ¥13,000 per kilo. 'We intend to serve our customers the highest quality tuna we can,' said Gatten's buyer, matter-of-factly – and they're not going to pay silly prices to do it. Hear, hear.