Japanese Melons Fetch Over $27,000 at Auction; Inside the Expensive Fruit Trend
- by Robert Schaulis
TOKYO, JAPAN – Curiously-shaped, oversized, and exceptional fruit are always fun and fascinating. No fair or festival feels quite complete without a massive pumpkin taking a blue ribbon. But in Japan, a well-curated collection of outlandish fruit could make you rich.
According to a recent CNN report, oversized and oddly-shaped fruit are selling at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, the news source reports, a pair of Hokkaido cantaloupe recently fetched 3 million yen at auction—$27,240 USD.
"Fruits are treated differently in Asian culture and in Japanese society especially," Soyeon Shim, Dean of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told CNN. "Fruit purchase and consumption are tied to social and cultural practices. It is not only an important part of their diet, but, perhaps more importantly, fruit is considered a luxury item and plays an important and elaborate ritual part in Japan's extensive gift-giving practices."
Across the nation, retailers like Sembikiya—a premium outlet selling a selection of high-priced produce—offer heart-, square-, and pyramid-shaped watermelons, “Ruby Roman” grapes the size of golf balls, and strawberries the size of a fist. These selections can pull prices from $100 to almost $10,000 USD.
The report notes that high-end fruit is part of a culture of gift-giving and can be traced to offerings made at a Buddhist shrine or a butsudan (home altar). Fruit may be given as a sign of respect or on an auspicious occasion.
"Fine fruit is also given as part of the elaborately nuanced process of relationship cultivation in Japan," Professor Ken Gehrt of San Jose State University commented. "It is said that the Japanese eat with their eyes. Certainly high-end fruit stands apart in terms of its beautiful appearance and the lovely way it is packaged and presented."
Luxury fruit is typically ornately packaged in jewelry boxes, special crates, with bows and other bells and whistles.
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