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The Same Guy Keeps Spending Insane Amounts of Money to Buy Japan’s First Tuna of the Season

This year, he bought it for $37,500—which he considered cheap

Tuna are a hot commodity in Japan at this time of year — so hot that a sushi chef paid $37,500 for a single fish. Here, dogtooth tuna swim in the Indian Ocean. (Norbert Probst/imageBROKER/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

You might say that Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the sushi restaurant chain called Sushi-Zanmai, has expensive taste. Over the past four years, he has spent about $2.6 million on exactly four fish in his annual winning bids at the opening of the fish market in Tokyo.

Or you might say that he recognizes a good deal when he sees one. This year, he spent just $37,500 on the first bluefin tuna of the season—at about half of last year’s $70,000 price tag, the cheapest of any of his first-of-the-year fish.

He bought the fish at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo’s premier fish market and the largest and busiest in the world. Here’s Kimura talking excitedly of his purchase:

As Jun Hungo of the Wall Street Journal reports, Kimura’s past experience in the tuna bidding wars may have skewed his perspective a bit:

While $37,500 may seem too much to pay for a fish, it is a bargain compared to what Mr. Kimura had to spend in 2013. In January 2012, Mr. Kimura won the bid at the first tuna auction of the year for $736,700. He then paid $1.76 million for a 222 kilogram tuna in January 2013, which remains an all-time record.

As Justin McCurry of the Guardian reports, the price did little to dampen Kimura’s love of his catch—which weighed in at a hefty 400 pounds:

“... it’s the best quality,” Kimura added. “I’m satisfied with buying the best one – it has a good shape and great fat.”

The Journal attributes the relatively low price to the bounty of the seas so far this season. But bluefin tuna stocks are still at risk. The Japanese may well love their tuna to extinction, as McCurry reports:

The country’s diners eat their way through about 80% of the global bluefin catch, while soaring demand in China and other parts of Asia is hastening its demise. The [International Union for Conservation of Nature] estimates the Pacific bluefin population has declined by 19-33% over the past 22 years, mainly to satisfy demand for sushi and sashimi in Asia.

Researchers in Japan are working on starting fish farms so that not all the world’s tuna would have to come from the ocean. Kinki University, for instance, has already opened two restaurants to showcase its 100 percent farmed tuna, McCurry writes. The fish come from a test farm that harms no natural stocks in the process of raising the tuna from eggs to adults.

About Amy Nordrum
Amy Nordrum

Amy Nordrum is a science writer based in New York City. She has contributed to Scientific American, the Atlantic, Popular Mechanics, IEEE Spectrum and Psychology Today.

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