Bluefin Tuna Sold For ‘Startlingly Low’ Price at Tsukiji Market’s First 2014 Auction

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Bluefin tuna at Tsukiji market in Tokyo

This Sunday at Tsukiji market’s first tuna auction of 2014, a bluefin tuna was sold at a “startlingly low price,” says Professor of Japanese Studies Theodore Bestor of Harvard University.

There is a long tradition of making a big deal of the first sale of the year. It’s an old commercial tradition across all Japanese businesses, but in particular the January 5th tuna auction commands a lot of attention from both broadcast news and national papers. After last year’s tuna auction, where a bluefin tuna was sold for $155.4 million yen (about $1.5 million dollars), people were surprised to find out that this year at the auction a larger bluefin tuna went for significantly less–7.36 million yen (about $70,000 dollars).

In the interview below, Evan Kleiman talks to Professor Theodore Bestor about the most recent tuna auction, as well as the broader tradition in Japan of making an event out of the first sale of the year.