In the basement of Japan’s luxury department stores, there’s always a special area lined with temperature-controlled glass display cases. Inside those cases is not jewellery, or artwork, but fruit. Super expensive fruit. But what are these fruits? And why is fruit so expensive in Japan?
This list covers the 10 most expensive fruits you can buy in Japan, and why they’re so insanely priced! The luxury fruits are listed in order of least to most expensive, based on the usual cost of the fruit in Japan, not the highest price they were ever sold for (which can be much higher). So be sure to read to the end to find out Japan’s number one most expensive fruit!
10. White Jewel: 10$ for one strawberry
These ghostly strawberries are pure white. To obtain their hue, the strawberries are grown with less sunlight, reducing the amount of anthocyanin, the chemical that gives normal strawberries their color. Even though the absence of color makes them look almost unripe, each white strawberry is actually very sweet!
9. The Dekopon Citrus: 13$ per orange
This Japanese fruit is a hybrid of a mandarin and an orange. It’s larger and sweeter than a usual orange and is supposedly the most delicious citrus in the world. It’s also seedless, making it easier to eat, and harder to cultivate.
8. The Sekai Ichi Apple: 21$ per appple
“Sekai Ichi” means “the best in the world” and at 21$ each, that had better be true! The apples are washed in honey before being sold and are several times the size of an ordinary apple. Does that make them worth the hefty price tags? That will have to be up to you!
7. The Zentsuji Watermelon: 94$ per melon
These watermelons are from Zentsuji, in Kagawa prefecture, in fact, because of a patent, that’s the only place they’re legally allowed to be grown. What makes them so special? The melons are square! They are grown in square molds, and only 200 are grown each year! They are harvested before they are ripe so that they can last longer. However, since they aren’t fully ripe, these high priced, square watermelons are mainly for display.
6. The Taiyo no Tamago Mangoes: 100$ per fruit
This mango’s name means “Egg of the Sun”, and they are worthy of such an extravagant title.
Each egg of the sun mango must weigh 350 grams, have a sugar content of 15 per cent or more, and have at least half of their color be a deep red. The mangos’ price starts at 50$, but most go for around 100$. The most expensive so far was a pair that went for $4,500, in 2019.
5. The Sembikiya Muskmelon: 150$ per melon
This green-fleshed melon from Shizuoka prefecture is so juicy it melts in your mouth. Only one melon can be grown per stem (the others are picked early on) so that a single melon gets all the plant’s nutrients. They are also kept in south-facing, temperature and moisture-controlled, glass greenhouses. The melon’s growth conditions are absolutely perfect, producing a perfect fruit!
4. The Yubari King Melon: 200$ per melon
Yubari King Melons are named after the town of Yubari in Hokkaido Prefecture, Northern Japan. There, Yubari King melons are grown in greenhouses. Volcanic ash is added to the melons’ soil and the precious fruit is even protected with little sun hats. They are then carefully hand-cut from the vine, leaving a portion of their stems. Finally, the melons go through a rigorous selection process. The melons’ rinds cannot have scars, they must have the right proportions and they must have a high enough sugar content.
The Yubari King Melon is in one in a million, and costs over a million yen too! The first harvested pair of Yubari melons are always auctioned off for incredible prices. In 2019, a pair of Yubari Melons was once sold at auction for the sky-high price of ¥5 million yen, or about 45,000$ making it one of the most expensive fruits ever sold both in Japan and worldwide!
Don’t worry, you don’t need hundreds of dollars to try some delicious fruity treats from Japan. With the TokyoTreat, you can sample all kinds of fruit-based sweets!
3. Densuke Watermelon: 250$ per watermelon
Hokkaido’s Densuke watermelon is characterized by its black skin and exceptional sweetness. Only 100 melons are grown a year, making them very valuable. The most expensive of these watermelons ever sold was at an auction in 2008. It was priced at 650,000 yen per ball, or 6,000$!
2. Ruby Roman Grapes: from 357$ to 4,000$ for a bunch
The “Ruby Roman” grape is grown in Ishikawa Prefecture. To be sold, the grapes must weigh 20 grams each and have a sugar content of 18 per cent
. A bunch of these grapes (they are usually only sold in bunches of about 25) once went for 11,000$ at an auction held in Kanazawa in 2017.
1. Bijin-hime Strawberries: 4000$ per strawberry
These strawberries’ name means “beautiful princess”. They are grown by the farmer Okuda Nichio at Okuda farm in Gifu prefecture and took him 15 years to perfect. The strawberries are sweet like honey, shaped like a “scoop” and the size of a fist! Nichio only sells 500 of these prized fruits a year, adding to their rarity. According to CNN, a single one of the largest of these strawberries usually goes for around 500,000 yen ($4,395).
Check out some more examples of other luxurious types of fruit from Japan!
Why are the most expensive fruits in Japan... so expensive?
Since ancient times, in Japan, people would offer gifts of food to shrines and graves, to ensure a good connection with their gods and ancestors, during the mid-year and end-of-year festivals. Later, these traditions led to sharing the food with family members and friends also participating in the rituals. Eventually, this led to the tradition of giving gifts of food during holidays to family, friends, and superiors. Of course, the rarer the food, the better the gift, and at the time, before modern growing techniques, any fruit would have been a luxury. Hence, the idea of fruit as a luxury gift.
Today, fruit is still considered a luxurious gift, worthy of giving to business partners, at a wedding, or to impress your boss. Some wealthy people like to collect high end fruit as a hobby, or for publicity at auctions, spending thousands of dollars. But even ordinary people in Japan might buy somewhat expensive fruit gifts. A fifty-dollar box of strawberries for a special occasion, or to show someone how much you appreciate them, is not uncommon here.
Finally, as fruit has grown ever closer to perfection, the cultivation methods have grown increasingly demanding. A single specimen may need decades of research, breeding, and tests, not to mention all the imperfect produce that gets thrown away. It costs a lot to be able to produce such sweet, beautiful fruit.
Do you think they’re worth the price? Which of these fruits would you like to try? Let us know!