The New Year’s holidays in Japan (from January 1 to around January 7) mean special to a lot of people, since they can take off from their busy work and spend quality time with their family.
You can guess how important this holiday is if I say it is like Christmas in Europe and the U.S. or the Lunar New Year for Chinese people. It may seem that Japanese people are obsessed with work, but during this holiday season, they can put their computer or cell phone aside, enjoy sashimi and sake, and watch TV while lounging on the floor for days.
In the last decade or so, the first tuna auction of the year has been drawing attention during the New Year’s holidays. TV and Internet media are flooded with morning news about who purchased tuna for what price at the auction. The first auction of the year is becoming a huge event that attracts attention from not only Japanese people but also any fans of Japanese cuisine around the world.
In particular, the first tuna auction of 2019 in January became global news. Mr. Kimura or the “Tuna King,” the owner of Sushizanmai, bought a 278-kg bluefin tuna caught in Oma, Aomori prefecture, for 333.6 million JPY (Approx. more than 3 million USD).
The tuna cost 1.2 million JPY per kg. One sushi piece alone would have cost 200 to 300 USD, but Mr. Kimura sold sushi made of this tuna for a usual price, that is, 3 to 4 USD a piece, on that day. In front of his restaurant in Tsukiji, a long line was formed by those who came to taste high-end tuna, as “hatsumono” (the first produce of the season) that brings good luck.
“Why are Japanese people so enthusiastic about the first tuna auction of the year?”
“Why do people pay so much?”
“Who is the ‘Tuna King,’ a man who wins the auction every year?”
Since friends overseas ask me these questions every year, we write this article to answer them.