PICS: Half a million rand for tuna? Tokyo's new fish market opens with old traditions

Tokyo's famous fish market reopened on Thursday at a new location but retained its most famous tradition: the tuna auction.

The customary clanging of bells opened the auction for raw and frozen tuna, which crammed the huge warehouse wall-to-wall, at the waterfront Toyosu facility. The rhythmical shouts of the auctioneers and the special hand signals by the bidders that followed were unchanged from Tsukiji, the smaller, more accessible home the market recently left after more than eight decades.

The top bid for tuna, a delicacy much like premium-grade beef in Japan, was 4.28 million yen (R548 520 at ¥1/R0,13), not an unusually high price for quality tuna.

The more than 400 kinds of seafood at the market come from all over Japan, as well as from abroad, including octopus, eel, sea urchin and other items special to Japanese cuisine.

SEE: Bluefin tuna sold for $320,000 in Tsukiji's last new year

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish marProspective buyers bid tomatoes as Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, bottom right, watches the first auction at the newly opened fruit and vegetable wholesale part of Toyosu Market, in Tokyo Thursday, 11 October 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

The market serves top restaurants and everyday supermarkets alike. The move was delayed for two years because of worries about contamination, including arsenic, at the Toyosu site. Measures were taken to ensure safety, such as better water pumps and extra concrete sealing.

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A worker cuts a fresh tuna with an edged tool at a wholesale shop at newly opened Toyosu Market, in Tokyo Thursday. Tokyo's famous fish market reopened Thursday at a new location but with an old tradition: the tuna auction. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike attended the opening and expressed hopes for the location's success.

"Of course, things are different here," she said of how the new place may take getting used to.

"We must build the Toyosu brand, day by day, to make it a symbol of Tokyo, and of Japan. I hope to move forward with all of you."

Officials and workers then clapped rhythmically in celebration of Toyosu's opening, the same customary gesture for good luck that had closed Tsukiji on 6 October.

Free-of-charge tours for the public start Saturday, including seeing the auction from a huge glass window. Visitors will not be able to go on the auction floor as they could at Tsukiji. Reporters got a tour of the grounds Thursday.

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Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish marTokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike delivers a speech at the newly opened fruit and vegetable wholesale part of Toyosu Market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish marA prospective buyer looks at frozen tunas during the first auction at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Tokyo's famous fish market reopened Thursday at a new location but with an old tradition: the tuna auction. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish mar

Prospective buyers check fresh tunas before bidding during the first auction at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Tokyo's famous fish market reopened Thursday at a new location but with an old tradition: the tuna auction. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Like Tsukiji, Toyosu also has a vegetable wholesale area, where auctions also take place. In several spots in the same market complex are tiny restaurants, including the ones that used to be at Tsukiji but also new ones.

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Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish marProspective buyers bid vegetable during the first auction at the newly opened fruit and vegetable wholesale part of Toyosu Market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish mar

Prospective buyers bid wasabi, or Japanese horseradish, during the first auction at the newly opened fruit and vegetable wholesale part of Toyosu Market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Still, much of the humbly quaint atmosphere of Tsukiji was gone in the sterile factory-like environment of Toyosu. Whether Toyosu can attract tourist traffic remains to be seen.

Serving as reminders were the people zipping around in their scooting carts, as busy as ever.

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish mar

Workers carry merchandise at the first official opening day at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Toyosu is a bit farther to get to than Tsukiji, which is within walking distance of downtown Ginza. Toyosu is reachable by an unmanned monorail called Yurikamome. A walkway from Shijo-mae station, which means "in front of the market," leads right to the Toyosu market.

About 40 000 people used to visit Tsukiji each day, not just retailers and restaurant operators but also "salarymen" on lunch breaks and tourists from all over the world.

It's unclear whether the stalls serving noodles and raw-tuna bowls that remain in the area surrounding Tsukiji will continue to be a draw without the backdrop of a real market.

SEE: Japan's controversial bluefin Tsukiji auction sees second highest bid

Tokyo, Japan, tuna, market, asia, travel, fish mar

A worker of a wholesale market stands at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Thursday was the first day of business at the new facility on Tokyo's waterfront called Toyosu after more than eight decades in Tsukiji. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)

Many fish wholesalers, workers and supporters had opposed the move out of Tsukiji, alleging that Toyosu was inefficient and unsafe. A handful of businesses were continuing to sell inside Tsukiji, saying they hoped to fight the planned tearing down of the old construction.

Tsukiji is being turned into a parking lot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. What gets built afterwards is undecided, according to the Tokyo city government. But it's clearly prime real estate, and plans under consideration include a casino.

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