If you’ve traveled or lived in Japan, you definitely would have noticed the hefty price tag on the fruits. Whether it’s strawberries at the supermarkets, melons at department stores, or berries at gift shops, fruits have a reputation for being a relatively premium food to purchase in Japan.
But why is that? Why is it that a Japanese melon can fetch an incredible $45,000 USD (true story!), and grapes can go for up to $460 USD per grape?
The above, of course, are extreme examples. For an average person in Japan, fruit is somewhat affordable in small doses but it’s not nearly something you’d purchase in abundance like in many other countries. On average, you may be paying 100 yen per apple or orange, which doesn’t break the bank, but it does make you consider whether you really need more than just a few.
There are multiple reasons why fruit is so expensive in Japan, and we’ll take you through some of the major ones now.
1) The Dedication of Farmers
The belief that farmers pay attention to each individual fruit that they harvest is real in Japan. They provide so much tender loving care to their crops that this then translates to a higher price tag at the end of the day.
The farmers do so as they believe that shoppers are extremely fussy and even the slightest blemish will mean they’ll overlook the produce for something else.
2) The Gifting Culture In Japan
In Japan, fruits are akin to luxury gifts and thus command a hefty price tag. Many people purchase fruits as gifts for their business associates or family as tokens of gratitude. This means that the fruits must be of the highest standards, both visually and in taste.
Because of this, many farmers will often have special crops of fruit that they dedicate much of their time to tend to frequently, consuming a huge chunk of their efforts and resources.
3) Farmland is Surprisingly Small In Japan
Unlike large-scale farming operations in many countries across the world, Japanese farmers often operate small-scale farmlands. There are a number of reasons for this but a major reason is because the majority of the country is too mountainous, and thus only 11-12% of the land is actually farmland.
Most fruit farms are run by small families, and because of the labor-intensive process of growing crops throughout the year, there cannot be a heavy production output per season. A high price tag at the end of the day makes it all worthwhile.
4) Disdain for Foreign Fruits
A common belief amongst Japanese people is that although foreign imported fruits and vegetables are cheaper than ones grown within Japan, they’re also ‘unsafe’.
This has led to a domestic-produce dominant market and has pushed the fruit price point to where it is now. Simply, the demand for local fruit outweighs the supply and prices are reflective of that.
Most Expensive Fruits by Type
Some examples of Japanese fruits that can fetch relatively excessive price tags include:
- Yubari King Melon – This Hokkaido melon is amongst the most expensive melons in the world. In 2019, a pair of the melons were sold for 5,000,000 yen! Japanese people believe that the very first harvest of top-tier quality fruit brings luck to them, so they’re the most highly sought-after.
- Zentsuji Watermelon – Japan is home to the bizarre square watermelon called the Zentsuji Watermelon. It’s one of the most popular fruit gifts and will set you back roughly 10,000 yen per watermelon. Its price is relatively high because there are only a certain number grown each year.
- White Jewel Strawberry – These white strawberries are quite a sight to behold. Whilst you’d initially imagine them to be plain, they’re quite juicy and sweet! Depending on the season and where you purchase them from, they could go up to 1,000 yen per strawberry.
Tell us, will you be purchasing and trying any of these fruits soon?