Fruit is an important part of Japanese culture, particularly when it comes to giving gifts. Varieties of “super-fruit” with hefty price tags include square- or heart-shaped watermelons, Ruby Roman grapes the size of ping pong balls, or super-sized strawberries as large as tennis balls. These specialty fruits are prized as luxury items, and regularly attract the attention of gift-givers looking to make a sweet statement. Fruit is big business in Japan, and growers spend years cultivating extra large and oddly-shaped fruits to sell to wealthy clients. Specialty watermelons, for example, can cost as much as 2.8 million yen (more than $25,000 USD).
A feast for the eyes:
- Bunches of Ruby Roman grapes can sell for more than 100,000 yen ($880 USD) each. Last year, a supermarket forked over 1.1 million yen ($9,700 USD ) for a first-harvest bunch, amounting to roughly $320 USD per grape.
- The Japanese see high-end fruit as a symbol of respect. “People purchase these expensive fruits to demonstrate how special their gifts are to the recipients,” says Soyeon Shim, dean of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- The fruit always is presented carefully packaged, often in ornate boxes, much like jewelry. “It is said that the Japanese eat with their eyes,” explains Ken Gehrt, a professor of marketing at San Jose State University.