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Tsukiji market's last days: The trained eyes of tuna wholesalers

A wholesaler checks the quality of frozen tuna with a flashlight at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, on Aug. 30, 2018. (Mainichi)

Before the start of the early morning auction of frozen tuna at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, round slices of frozen tuna tails whose cross sections resemble red grapefruits are placed on top of the tuna.

Wholesalers scrape tuna meat from the slices and stare at the meat under flashlights to estimate the value of the tuna.

While it is not uncommon for a single tuna to fetch millions of yen at an auction, the quality of the meat cannot be determined until the fish is filleted. One middle-aged wholesaler, however, touched the tuna meat with his fingertips to feel its stickiness and observe how the fat melted.

"A professional wholesaler judges the value of tuna from experience and intuition," he said.

The professional expertise of wholesalers, on which sushi cooks and cooks at Japanese restaurants rely, has protected Japan's food culture and the Tsukiji market as a brand. Soon, these skills will be transferred to the new market in Toyosu in Tokyo's Koto Ward, to which the Tsukiji market is being relocated.

(Japanese original by Kentaro Mori, City News Department)

* This series introduce scenes from the last days of the Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, which is scheduled to end 83 years history when its closes for relocation to the new Toyosu site in Tokyo's Koto Ward on Oct. 6.

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