<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By William Pesek</p> <p>The fish went for $730,000, and that's not a typographical error.</p> <p>That's what Kiyomura K.K. paid for the most expensive fish ever sold at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. Make that overpaid. The Japanese sushi chain will be selling $74 pieces of tuna for $5 apiece -- a roughly $600,000 loss.</p> <p>What can we make of this headline-grabbing splurge? Three possibilities come to mind: Kiyomura President Kiyoshi Kimura is a showoff wasting his fortune; he's a brilliant showman who's probably getting $7 million worth of public relations for 10 percent down; or he's trying to inspire his nation.</p> <p>The answer appears to lie behind door No. 3. And Japan's government could learn a thing or two from the gesture. "Japan has been through a lot the last year due to the disaster," he told AP Television News. "Japan needs to hang in there. So I tried hard myself and ended up buying the most expensive one."</p> <p>The first Tsukiji auction each year has a special place in the Japanese psyche. Some regard the prices paid as an economic omen for the year ahead. And the latest auction got huge press coverage.</p> <p>It's one of the best shows in Asia -- a three-ring aquatic circus of sorts. Six days a week, at dawn, hundreds of bidders gather to pay top yen for the fish most beloved by Japan's food-obsessed masses. It's also one of the core tourist attractions in a city that punches far below its weight in foreign arrivals.</p> <p>Part of Kimura's motivation was to keep the tuna in Japan "rather than let it get taken overseas." The January 2011 sale was a downer for many Japanese; one of the big winners was a Hong Kong restaurateur. Coincidentally, perhaps, 2011 was a dismal year that included a record earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis.</p> <p>No, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda shouldn't be buying giant fish to boost consumer confidence. Yet Kimura is the latest private-sector bigwig to realize that Japan's 126 million people need a serious pick-me-up -- and he's doing something about it. Distracted by petty infighting and politics as usual, elected officials aren't.</p> <p>No one seriously thinks a $730,000 tuna will turn the tide in a nation beset with economic gloom and skepticism. Yet for a people in need of a psychological boost, Kimura's fish came through in ways the government hasn't.</p> <p>(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist.)</p> </body> </html>