A pair of coveted Yubari melons (yes – the fruit), sold for a record-breaking 3.2 million Yen (approx AUS $37,000) at an auction in Sapporo, Japan.
And I thought Australian produce was expensive.
The buyer, Shinya Noda, who is president of a fruit and vegetable packing company, wanted to “make a record-setting bid by all means” – and so, he did.
The previous record was set by a supermarket buyer in 2016 – he paid a small 3 million yen for the set.
At this year’s annual auction, 508 melons grown by eight farmers from Yubari were up for grabs.
So what’s so special about these melons?
Well, firstly, it’s important to understand that fruit in Japan is considered a luxury.
In some high-end fruit stores, pears can cost as much as $19. During Ochugen, a mid-year custom of presenting gifts to someone you are indebted to, fruit is often the gift of choice.
The Yubari melon, known as the Yubari King, was developed and perfected by farmers in the city of the same name after World War II.
The fruit is so desired that it must be offered some form of official protection; each farmer that grows the melons has to sell them directly to the Yubari Agricultural Cooperative Association.
They own the trademark for the melons and ensure that each melon donned a ‘Yubari King’ is not a counterfeit. This is serious business.
And so is the growing process. Once the seeds are planted and they start to flower, the farmers will pollinate the blooms, and remove any less-than-worthy buds, by hand. With a paintbrush.
As they grow, they get their very own hats, to protect them from sunburn, and a daily massage.
Well, close to it – farmers, wearing white gloves, will give each fruit a ‘ball wiping’, to help smooth them into the perfect shape.
Meanwhile, restaurants in Hokkaido will also host all-you-can-eat melon buffets during the season. Unfortunately, demand often exceeds supply and last year a restaurant had to apologise to customers for running out of melons on opening day.
Shinya Noda has said that he will put his prized melons on display until the end of the month, then slice them up and give them away to customers.