Japan: Record tuna bid by 'Sushi King' at Tsukiji ritual hints at return of economic optimism
Kiyomura Co's President Kiyoshi Kimura (C), who runs a chain of sushi restaurants Sushi Zanmai, poses with a 212 kg (467 lbs) bluefin tuna at his sushi restaurant outside Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2017. Kimura won the bid for the tuna caught off Oma, Aomori prefecture, northern Japan, with a 74 million yen (633,000 USD) at the fish market's first tuna auction this year. REUTERS/Issei Kato TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Self styled Japanese 'Tuna King' Kiyoshi Kimura made the highest bid for the New Year's first fish on the famed Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Kimura, who owns the Sushizanmai restaurant chain, paid 74 million yen ($637,000) for a 212 kilogram Pacific bluefin tuna.

It was the sixth-straight year the sushi tycoon romped home with the first fish on auction at the so-called Tsukiji ritual at the world's biggest fish market.

Kimura, who ended up paying 350,000 yen per kilogram of the fish, a maguro tuna from Aomori Prefecture, said the price was a bit steep this year.

"If there are no competitors, [the price per kilogram] will reach 20,000 yen or 30,000 yen. Everyone fought and the got higher," Kimura said, according to the Tokyo Reporter.

However, the high price and active biding this year hints at a return of economic optimism in Japan, which has been fighting a dogged battle with deflation over the years.

The winning bid for the first tuna on the market last year was just 14 million yen. This year's price was the highest since 1999.

"This one feels a bit pricey, but it's good to win a big, well-formed tuna ... I want my customers to enjoy it as soon as possible," Kimura added, according to the FT.

However, environmentalists say Japan is overfishing the tuna. Jamie Gibbon from the Pew Charitable Trusts told FT that 70 percent of all the Pacific bluefin caught are less than one year old and weigh less than five kilogrammes.

"Ninety-five per cent are less than three years old which means they haven't had a chance to reproduce."