Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Tokyo's Tsukiji holds last tuna auction before move

French chef Lionel Beccat says it took him several years to build up relationships with Tsukiji's fishmongersMore French chef Lionel Beccat says it took him several years to build up relationships with Tsukiji's fishmongersMore
Rhonda Young | 08 October, 2018, 05:55

A group of trucks, called turret truck, head to the new Toyosu market from Tsukiji in Tokyo early Sunday. Buyers traditionally offer eye-watering prices as a "New Year gratuity" when the market resumes operation after winter holidays.

Hundreds of fresh and frozen tuna tagged with their weight and port of origin were laid out in lines in a refrigerated warehouse, as buyers in rubber boots quietly inspected the wares.

Each New Year's Day, high-profile buyers vied to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the top tuna at the first auction of the year.

Opened in 1935, Tsukiji was for many years known only to its vendors and the food industry, but it gained global reknown in recent decades and its tuna auctions even hit the headlines, with one fish going for a record $1.8 million at the market's New Year's auction in 2013.

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A total of 2,600 small vehicles and forklifts that will be used at the market will be brought to the new location by Wednesday.

Wholesaler Kazutada Igarashi said he has been working through the night to move refrigerators from Tsukiji to Toyosu.

For decades, Tokyo's Tsukiji market has been the beating heart of a world-class culinary capital, supplying Michelin-starred chefs and drawing tourists who queue for hours to glimpse pre-dawn tuna auctions.

The new site will feature state-of-the-art refrigeration, while tourists will be confined to special galleries behind glass.

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But this week it will finally shut its doors and relocate from its dilapidated but central location to a new site in eastern Tokyo, after a lengthy and controversial process, hindered by pollution rows and construction delays. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike gave assurances in September that the site was now safe, but some retailers remain anxious.

The so-called outer market - home to shops selling food and other goods - will remain after the move. "We are sad to lose the Tsukiji brand", vegetable wholesaler Tsukasa Kujirai told AFP.

He was forced to give way for the Olympics in 2020.

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