Just last month Oxford English Dictionary added ‘Superfruit‘ in one of its regular updates. Superfruits are supposed to be a kind of fruits that confer remarkable health benefits, such as Goji berries, Yuzu and Kale.
Despite seeming to be considered everyday fruits, fruit such as apples, blueberries, grapes and strawberries are all categorised as ‘superfruit’. Nutritionists have recommended that superfruits such as these are essential parts of a balanced daily diet. These fruits specifically contain more vitamins, antioxidants and minerals than most other fruits.
Whilst most of us will head down to the supermarket or local greengrocers for our fruits to pay relatively insignificant sums to buy the nutritionally recommended produce, Japan have been taking it to the next level.
Soyeon Shim from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Human Ecology told CNN, “Fruits are treated differently in Asian culture and in Japanese society especially.” They added, “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.”
For example there is the world famous Sembikya shop, which is Japan’s longest-running greengrocers, established in 1834. Sembikya famously sells square and heart-shaped watermelons, grapes as big as ping pong balls and giant strawberries the size of tennis balls. In Sembikya the fruit can be found behind glass cabinets, on plinths and inside gift boxes.
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Carefully-cultivated fruit is big business in Japan, with large and oddly shaped fruit selling for thousands of pounds across the country.
In March 2016 a pair of Yubari King cantaloupe melons sold for ¥3 million (£21,500) at a wholesale market auction.
Much like Kobe beef and champagne the melon’s name is derived from where it is produced, Hokkaido city in Yubari. This type of cantaloupe can generate it’s high prices due to it’s reported sweetness. Whilst showing what some people in Japan are willing to pay for certain fruit, this extortionate amount isn’t completely typical. Normally this variety sells for around £80 in Japanese specialist greengrocers (still a significant amount to pay for what is essentially a slightly sweeter melon), this successful bidder claimed, “I wanted to return a favour to the farmers of Yubari, who help us every year.”
Yubari Mayor Naomichi Suzuki said the high price at the auction will give the impression that Japan is ‘full of energy’ and hopefully continue to improve the awareness and sales of Yuburi melons beyond Japan.
Whilst this instance was specifically extortionate, a bunch of the giant ping-pong sized grapes did sell for nearly £8k and the individual giant strawberries are marketed for £17 each.
Cecilla Smith Fujishima from Shirayuri University in Tokyo explained that, “In some ways, it’s like luxury chocolate. Giving it [fruit] as a gift conveys status and regard for the other person.”