ATC'S RED SALMON
Sea Catch went bankrupt.
I returned to Japan and started to work as an auction dealer
in charge of Alaskan salmon.
It had been three years since I first smoked marijuana, and
some side affects started to appear. I smoked marijuana even
in the rest rooms of the Tukiji Wholesale Market. When I
thought I was sober, I looked strange to the eyes of the people
around. Although, people still thought that it was only my
personality, and my bad habit was not uncovered.
Touto Marine Products held a stock of red salmon hard to
sell. The 200 tons of frozen red salmon was from Bristol Bay,
Bristol Bay is the largest red salmon fishing ground that
produces half of the total amount of U.S.A.. In about a week
or 10 days, freezing plants and factory ships fully operate to
face this crazy flood of red salmon.
When schools of red salmon are extremely huge and total
production climbs up to more than 30 thousand tons, shortage
of freezing capacity occurs. In those years, "round" frozen
red salmon were produced. This kind of production was easy
to produce but poor in quality. Even after salmon are dead,
the guts obtain a high temperature and roasts the inner belly
The 200 tons of red salmon that Touto Marine Products
held was this round salmon. I was ordered to sell it.
The market was full of early season deliveries of red
salmon, so there was no demand for round red salmon at all,
no matter how cheap the price was.
I made a plan.
I sent the red salmon to a fish processer. They were gutted,
the gills were removed and salted. The salted red salmon were
put on a brand ATC (Aero Trading Company). ATC was a
company Touto Marine Products owned in Canada.
ATC was located in Vancouver and they used to process
red salmon caught there. Fresh red salmon were gilled, gutted,
salted and frozen at a very close point from it's fishing ground.
They were all sent to Japan and the reputation of the production
was pretty good.
Fresh salmon salted immediately, not after freezing, was
thought to be the best way to process salted salmon. This idea
came from the days when the high seas were wide open to the
Japanese factory ships. All the salmon caught were salted
immediately on board. In contrast to this kind of way of
processing, there were other ways to make salted salmon. One
way was to freeze the fresh salmon once, and to defrost it later
to salt it. This way was thought to be inferior in quality in
terms of freshness. The principle of maintaining freshness is
to lessen sequences of processing.
The brand for the round red salmon was decided and next,
a strategy to sell the fake ATC red salmon became necessary.
What was apparent was that no one would have bought it
if it was just "put on the shelf."
Some strategy aggressive was necessary.
I decided to sell this frozen red salmon in the way used in
fresh fish auctions.
Frozen fish are hard to perish. But it isn't good to keep it
long anyway, since the longer you keep it, the more rent and
interest you have to pay. In addition, if it takes time to sell it
out, you lose money for free samples you have to show to new
The method of the fresh fish auction was to sell out all the
fish in one day. If this was possible for frozen fish also, it was
the best way to earn the most profit.
I thought about Buddy Mr. Nine.
Someone like Buddy Mr. Nine who would bargain the
remainings of the auction was needed. I talked to a Mr. Tanaka
of a middleman called Left-one. I planned to let him do the
In October of that year, I started the sales of the ATC salted
salmon. It was better to sell a large part of the salmon until
December, since the season used to be always the season of
the year having the largest demand for fish. If it would have
taken more time, the sales probably wouldn't have been
completed until the next summer, when the new season for
salmon would start. The red salmon would really lose what it
I planned to sell out the 200 tons of salmon within the
I figured out how much I would have to sell to Left-one
and subtracted that total income from the whole cost of the
200 tons of ATC red salmon. From what I got, I decided the
prices to sell it to other regular middlemen.
The sales started.
At first, it was strong and fast but soon, it grew weak and
then, absolute]y stopped.
Though, it was a result I had been expecting. The prices I
had decided to sell to the regular middlemen was at a very
high level compared to other salmon market prices. Rumours
were also heard in the market that Left-one was knocking down
the ATC red salmon with cheap bids.
I told myself not to be bothered by these things and kept
selling large amounts of the red salmon everyday. Near]y all
were knocked down by Left-one. Naturally, other bids became
cheaper and cheaper.
A month passed and losses were getting unbearable. The
sales of the ATC red salmon were starting to be a problem in
the company. But at last, other middlemen besides Left-one
started to bid higher prices. They started to receive orders
from their customers, although small in amounts. The big
reason why orders started to come was because the ATC red
salmon were sold everyday. The prices were expensive but
middlemen had no risks to owe. It surely was a point that the
middlemen could take advantage of. Furthermore the ATC
brand was exclusive, since cheap prices in Tukiji was nothing
unusual those days and most of the other brands had run away
from the Market hating the cheap prices. There were no such
brands to survive the market prices other than ATC.
"Hey! It doesn't have to be so expensive!" The middlemen
would say with a grin on their faces but next they would say,
"Can't quit buying 'cause it's an order."
They had to knock down the ATC red salmons at the
expensive price I had repeated to them so many times that I
couldn't remember how often.
As the ATC salmon started to sell well, the numbers left
after auction decreased. The market price was going close to
the price I planned in the first place.
The cheap ATC salmon that Left-one had been selling was
scattered all around the country after putting on Left-one's
profit. But some of Left-one's customers came directly to
Touto Marine Products. They were trying to buy more cheaply
by omitting Left-one.
December came and a sales manager of a wholesale market
in the Miyagi Prefecture came to Touto Marine Products. He
originally was Left-one's major customer.
Generally speaking, fish dealing professionals all come to
the auction place at first. So was this sales manager.
Though, he mentioned nothing about the ATC red salmon.
He came to the office later and had a breakfast with the big
shots of Touto Marine Products. After he finished eating he
said, "I'll buy all that's left of the ATC red salmon."
I was called and I opened the stock ledger in front of the
sales manager from the Miyagi Prefecture. The sales manager,
director of the salted fish division and vice president of Touto
Marine Products were there at the scene. I told them the details
of what was left of the 200 tons of red salmon, which had
lessened to 120 tons then. I had sold lower grades first, so the
stock as a whole had increased its value for resale.
"Don't you have more?" asked the customer from the
There was no more. I gave him a good bargain and he
bought it all.
I was quite happy about this result.
But later, I was called by the vice president to his office.
He said that he was unsatisfied because I had sold the red
salmon unreasonably cheap.
I was depressed at knowing what the vice president thought
about the ATC red salmon sales. Only God knows what may
have been if I had sold the red salmons in an ordinally way.
Even now, I believe that my sales was the best. As time went
by, I saw much bankruptcy and tremendous deficits being
exposed in the fish business. At any of the times, I felt strongly
again that my sales method was right.
There is an old saying in the Tukiji Wholesale Market. It
goes like this,
"Fish are most expensive when a bid is made."
The meaning of this is that if you don't sell the fish because
you only get a cheap bid, next time you'll get a cheaper bid for
the same fish.
The saying says that you should sell fish while there still is
a bid, which leads you to end up with the best result.
The saying was from the old days when there were only
fresh fish distributed, but it lives even today in the days of
high developed frozen fish, which can be stocked for a long
period of time, and allows the fish to meet better times of
Many Japanese corporations and their salesmen ignored
this principle contained in this saying, sought temporary profits,
neglected to account for deficits and ran into worse situations.
Many salesmen relied upon dubious bubble economy type
methods like "resale of fish with special contracts of buying
back," to maintain their sales budget. As a result, they all
I continued to insist on the fairness of the ATC red salmon
sales method all the days I was involved in the fish business.
This became at the same time, a criticism towards the existing
fish market customs.