Would You Pay $22,500 for Single Melon? In Japan, Some Do

In the United States, the average person spends about $160 on a wedding gift.

In Japan, however, gift-giving can be an extremely involved, ceremonial and traditional process. It gets obscenely expensive, too.

Like specialty, artisanal fruits. They are given as luxury items in Japan. In addition, local businesses aggressively bid on specialty fruits for bragging rights, promotional purposes for local gourmet establishments and to highlight the intricate, painstaking growing process of the fruit.

Think bonsai tree-level effort, but fruit.

One prime example is the country’s revered Yubari King melon. It is a kind of cantaloupe that has an orange-yellow tinged pulp and a sweet, sugary taste.

Yubari is a city in Japan that created its own industry regarding specialty fruits. The Yubari King melon is the most expensive kind of melon that you can find.

Melons from the first harvests of the year are usually auctioned at local markets. They regularly sell for between $37 and $93 each. On May 24, 2019, a Tokyo food company bought two Yubari King melons for $45,500.

Pokka Sapporo Food & Beverage Ltd made the winning bid. The company gained local bragging rights and used the occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their own brand of melon-flavored soda.

Pampered fruit

Yubari King melons go through an exacting and almost pampered growing process. The melon is grown from the splicing of two different kinds of melons seeds. They are then grown for 100 days under climate-controlled conditions.

Each melon is cleaned by gloved growers who put white paper hats on the fruit to protect the sun from ruining their color. The best and sweetest melon, one per vine, are chosen in each crop.

Those few melons are ultimately chosen by growers who can tap them and discern ripeness by sound. The rind of a Yubari King melon has beautiful, net-like skin similar to the texture of finely embroidered lace.

People pay top dollar for all kinds of Japanese specialty fruits. In 2015, a chef paid $8,200 for 26 grapes in a bunch of Japanese Ruby Roman grapes. That’s $315 per grape.