If you’ve ever flinched at the cost of an avocado, spare a thought for Shinya Noda, president of fruit and vegetable company Hokuyu Pack, who paid ¥3.2 million (the equivalent of $AU38,000) for two Yubari King melons at a Sapporo auction last weekend. The price paid for the melons is up from the ¥3 million record, set in 2016 by a supermarket buyer wanting a taste of the (melon) high life.
Of course, he isn’t complaining. “I wanted to make a record-setting bid by all means,” Noda told various news outlets about his win. According to Fortune, Noda acquired the melons as a gift for employees and customers of his company. Expensive fruits as gifts are often sighted around this time in Japan for the tradition of ochugen (literally, summer gift).
The price paid for the melons is up from the ¥3 million record, set in 2016 by a supermarket buyer wanting a taste of the (melon) high life.
But what make these entirely edible, not-gold-plated cantaloupes so darn special (read: worth $38,083.53)?
Yubari melons are grown in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Like Champagne or Kobe beef, any melon grown outside of the Hokkaido area can’t rightly be called a Yubari, and won’t fetch nearly as much at an auction. Yubari melons are reportedly sweet enough to warrant the price tag, sometimes acting as the star attraction at all-you-can-eat melon buffets at Hokkaido restaurants.
Farmers growing Yubari melons are answerable to the Yubari Agricultural Cooperative Association, a body responsible for ensuring the quality and authenticity of the fruit – no counterfeits allowed.
As anyone who has travelled to Japan can testify, expensive fruit isn’t exactly an anomaly – perhaps the result of a nature-ordained trade-off for possessing some of the best seafood in the world. Fruit is something of a luxury in Japan, where the practice of gift-giving all throughout the year is enmeshed in the culture. Pair that with some exceptional growing processes, and soon enough, two bunches of grapes or a bag of four pears can go for as much as ¥5000.
Unfortunately for local melon fanatics, tasting a Yubari King at this stage involves a trip to Hokkaido – and perhaps a bit of budget. In the meantime, explore SBS Food’s Japanese recipe collection for the next best thing.