In Japanese culture, it is just as customary to receive fruit as a gift as it is to receive wine or chocolate. In fact, Japanese melons in particular are so expensive that they may even cost more than a year’s salary.
Let’s find out more!
Across Japan, people are very proud of their hometown’s fruit and vegetables, and often select local Japanese fruit as omiyage (souvenirs) to bring back to friends and colleagues after visiting family back home.
This custom is so big that if you visit the basement of any Japanese department store – at any time of the year, even in a small city – you’ll find a bunch of perfectly shaped, mouth watering fruit at jaw dropping prices. You can also find fruit at gift shops and souvenir markets.
And more than just perfectly shaped; you may spot a square watermelon, some heart-shaped pears, or even diamond oranges. Mind you, these are some of the most expensive fruits in Japan, but they are definitely a fun option.
But none are more prized than the melon. Melons too, come in a variety of specialized shapes, but melons even have different grades to indicate sweetness and size.
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There are many regions in Japan which grow melons. Just like wine, the type of melon from each region varies, each one is prized as much as the next. The three main (and most expensive) types of melon are:
Japanese melons can be so expensive that they can serve as free advertising. The price of Japanese melons is widely documented around the world, in some of the biggest news outlets. This means that companies buy the melon to get their company name in the news, rather than simply its deliciousness.
The types of melon are ranked from ‘good’ yuki, ‘superior’ shiro, ‘excellent’ yama, to ‘especially excellent’ fuji.
Melons with very minor blemishes make up the ‘good’ rating, and around half of all the melons are sold at ‘superior’ rating. This is compared to ‘especially excellent’ rating, of which only around 0.1% of melons make the grade each year.
Yubari melon comes from the region of Yubari, in the Hokkaido Prefecture. Yubari melon is famous for its juicy, orange flesh and honey-like flavor, a hybrid of Burpee’s Spicy cantaloupe melon and Earl Favorite melon.
The small city of Yubari is known for its drastically aging population and the Yubari film festival that was started in order to revitalize the area. Thanks to the Yubari melons, the city attracts tourists each year who want to sample some of the best, freshest melons in the world (literally).
I have visited to sample this melon, and it is truly mouth-wateringly delicious. You can eat the melon with a spoon as the flesh is so soft and sweet, and you can squeeze the skin into a cup at the end to get a cup of delicious melon juice. It really is one of the most delicious Hokkaido foods, and I completely recommend it.
In fact, the Yubari is typically the most expensive melon out of all the melon types. The most famous Yubari melon sold at the season’s first auction set the record price back in 2019, with one pair of Yubari King Melons selling for a whopping 5 million yen or around $43,300. This pair of Yubari melons was bought by Tokyo-based company Pokka Sapporo Food & Beverage Ltd.
Even after the effects of COVID, the melon price power has stayed strong. The price dropped to 5% in 2020 but went back up again in 2021 to nearly 3 million yen for a pair, with the price only set to head upwards.
The Crown Melon is a descendant of a UK brand melon and is a type of muskmelon, with light colored flesh and a wonderful fragrance. Crown Melon has an especially high price tag because of its meticulous cultivation process.
The Crown Melon is grown in Shizuoka Prefecture, and involves maintaining one single fruit per stalk, ‘One Tree, One Fruit’ policy, and cultivation every day over a period of exactly 100 days.
The melon farmer massages and polishes each melon while wearing gloves. Such is the dedication to each massage that farmers go through several pairs of gloves each season.
Ibara King Melon is arguably the most accessible out of all the famous Japanese melons, grown in the top melon-producing region: Ibaraki Prefecture, next to Tokyo.
Ibara King Melon (AKA King of Ibaraki) is known for its delicate flavor, supreme sweetness, and smooth, dark yellow or green flesh.
The youngest of the bunch, Ibara King Melon has only been produced since 2011, the result of a 10 year-long agricultural process, testing, and trialing various melon hybrids to reach optimal sweetness.
It is said that the Ibara King Melon is a hybrid of 400 different types of melon!
Let us know if you would like to try a melon… And what you think about paying the premium price.
World-famous Japanese foods like sushi, sashimi (sliced raw fish), and tempura (fried fish and vegetables) all require careful prep and complicated techniques. However, Japanese festival and street food sold at yatai (mobile street food stalls) also have their own appeal and are worth a try.
Instant noodles were invented in the 1950s by the Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, then marketed by Nissin under the name Chikin Ramen (Chicken Ramen).
Japan has so many amazing drinks with unique flavors. With new products being available in Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores weekly there is too much to try!
Want a drink to cool you down in the summer heat? Check out Starbucks Japan’s delicious seasonal summer menu with this Melon of Melon Frappuccio for summer 2022.
Yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) – it’s eaten and enjoyed in many parts of the world and has quickly become Japan’s most beloved comfort food. A typical yakisoba recipe usually features classic Japanese noodles, vegetables, meat, and a salty, sweet, and sour sauce.
Looking for something good to eat without breaking the bank? Check out this list of deliciously cheap places to eat in Shibuya.