A Japanese sushi entrepreneur paid a record of 3.1 million dollars for a giant tuna on Saturday while the new Tokyo fish market, which replaced the famous Tsukiji at the end of last year, held its first New Year's auction pre-dawn.
The bids stood at 333.6 million yen for the huge 278 kg (an endangered species) fish caught off the north coast of Japan.
The so-called "Tuna King" Kiyoshi Kimura paid the highest price, doubling the previous record of 155 million yen from 2013.
"I bought a good tuna," Kimura said after the auction.
"The price was higher than initially thought, but I hope our customers eat this great tuna."
Tsukiji – the world's largest fish market and a popular tourist attraction in an area full of restaurants and shops – moved to Toyosu in October, a former gas plant a little further east.
Opened in 1935, Tsukiji was known for its predawn tuna auctions a day, captured from all corners of the world, for use by everyone, from the best Michelin star chefs to ordinary grocery stores.
Especially at the first auction of the new year, sushi wholesalers and magnates were known to pay attractive prices for bigger and better fish.
Despite the transfer, the auction ritual remained intact: before dawn, rubber boot buyers were inspecting the quality of the giant fresh and frozen tuna by examining the tail cut with flashlights and slices of rubbing between the fingers.
At 5:10 am the bells rang to signal that the auction was in progress and the air filled with the sound of the auctioneers who shouted the prices to the buyers, who raised their fingers to indicate interest.
"Finally, the first New Year auction was held at the Toyosu market," said Yoshihiko Otaki, a market official.
"We have a lot of tuna here as we did in Tsukiji," he said.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said, "I sincerely hope this market is loved by many people."
The transfer has been a long and controversial process.
Few would dispute the fact that Tsukiji had exceeded its peak, and there were concerns about fire regulations and obsolete sanitary controls.
In contrast, the new market, located about 2 km east of Toyosu, boasts state-of-the-art refrigeration systems and is almost double that of Tsukiji.
But Toyosu is on the site of a former gas plant and the soil was found tainted, forcing local authorities to spend millions of dollars to clean it up and delay the transfer.