Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fishmarket holds last auction before move

Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market, the world’s largest fishmarket and a major tourist attraction, held its final tuna auction on Saturday before a controversial move to a new site next week.

Hundreds of fishmongers are packing up and preparing to leave Tsukiji for a gleaming new $5 billion market set to open on Thursday on reclaimed land farther from central Tokyo.

The most expensive fish – a 162-kg (357.15 lb) tuna – sold for 4.3 million yen ($37,818) at the early morning auction, Kyodo News said. Business at Tsukiji officially ended at noon.

“I am very grateful and happy that we could have continued business smoothly all these years until today. I would like to thank Tsukiji from the bottom of my heart,” Hiroyasu Itoh, chairman of the seafood wholesalers’ association, told reporters.

The 83-year-old Tsukiji market drew tens of thousands of visitors a year to its warren of stalls with exotic species of fish and fresh sushi. But it had become dilapidated and unsanitary, city officials said in planning the move to a new site in Toyosu, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay.

A survey taken by a group opposed to the relocation found that more than 80 percent of Tsukiji fish traders were against the move to Toyosu.

Takeshi Ohashi, a 44-year-old former Tsukiji worker, went to the market with his wife to bid farewell.

“I am sad to see Tsukiji close but I do look forward to seeing what the land will be used for after this and how Tokyo will develop going forward,” Ohashi said.

The old Tsukiji site will provide temporary parking for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and eventually become a tourist center.