When most people think of luxury items, fruit usually doesn’t come to mind. But in Japan, fruits are held in high esteem and are often given as gifts.
This is partly because farmers take great care with the growing process. But it’s also because the fruits are pretty out-of-this-world.
1. Shine Muscat Grapes
While Shine Muscat grapes aren’t as popular in Japan as they are in South Korea and China, the price tag of these special grapes make them a popular high-end gift to be shared among friends and family. Developed by the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Japan, these grapes are cultivated in Okayama and Nagano prefectures.
They are a seedless variety that can be eaten with their skin and are often described as the “King of Grapes”. Their thin skins keep them fresh for long, making them a favorite among consumers! Shine Muscat grapes are also a popular choice for export, being sold in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Fruit has long played a central role in Japanese ceremonial gift-giving. Samurais presented tangerines or muskmelon to the shogun as a sign of loyalty, while farmers gifted fruits and other edibles to neighbors to build community and reaffirm the expectations of mutual service.
Watermelons are available year round in Japan and can be purchased for a reasonable price. However, if you want to enjoy the fresh taste of a premium watermelon, try one from Ibaraki or Hokkaido.
Like the aforementioned Crown Melon, these high-end muskmelons have their own brand and price tag. They grow only in a handful of prefectures and require special care, such as a ‘one plant, one fruit’ policy and meticulous massages by farmers wearing gloves.
One of Japan’s most famous fruits is the Crown Melon, which can cost $200 per fruit and take extreme care to grow. Aside from their looks, these melons are also crunchy and moist.
They are grown to perfection, and are usually given as gifts during special occasions. It is considered a luxury to give this type of fruit to someone, and the price tag is a sign of how much thought went into its creation.
In addition to square watermelons, there are also black ones that are cultivated in Hokkaido and can cost up to $300 each. They look just like regular cube-shaped watermelons, but they have a black skin with a different flavor than traditional melons.
Bananas are one of the world’s most produced and consumed fruits, and they have a significant impact on the global environment. They are also often linked to unacceptable working conditions, the suppression of independent trade unions and unjust sharing of profits along supply chains.
The Philippines dominates Japan’s banana import market, accounting for 76 percent of all imported bananas in 2021. Philippine ambassador Jose Laurel V has asked Japanese retailers to raise banana prices so that his nation’s farmers can make a profit and support their families.
While six dollars may seem like a high price to pay for a single banana, it is insignificant relative to the cost of some other premium Japanese produce. For example, aesthetically pleasing melons can sell for $30 each.
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The peach is a prized fruit in Japan. They’re sweet, juicy, and aesthetically beautiful. They’re also a part of the story of Momotaro, the son of the deity Izanagi-no-Mikoto who fought a group of oni (demon enemies).
Growing peaches in Japan is an involved process. They’re a delicate fruit and need to be handled carefully. To protect them from damage, small bags are attached to each one.
Peaches are only available during a short period of time. They’re usually sold as a special gift for children or loved ones. They’re often much more expensive than the standard fruit you might find at your local supermarket. That’s because these peaches are incredibly rare and special.
Apples are a popular fruit that is available in many places. However, there are some varieties that are extremely expensive. The Yubari King melon set the record for highest fruit price when a pair sold for $27,000 at an auction in 2016.
Like other fruits, apples are also known to be good for health. They help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke and are said to prevent obesity.
Although some fruits in Japan may be more expensive than those found elsewhere, they are still affordable and widely available. They’re a great snack for anyone looking to keep their energy levels up without spending a fortune!
7. Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms, also known as sakura, are one of Japan’s most celebrated symbols. The ephemeral flowers are said to remind people of the beauty of life and its brevity. Many sakura spots are popular destinations for hanami picnics and viewing parties, especially during peak season from late March to early April.
You’ll find sakura imagery throughout Japanese culture, from delicate patterns painted on byobu traditional folding screens to dreamy landscapes in ukiyo-e wood block prints. Even the cobblestoned Heerstrasse in Bonn, Germany is adorned with rows of cherry trees, a nod to the country’s shared history and ties to Japan.
The pink beauty is also a recurring design element in many Japanese manga and anime. But don’t be tempted to pluck one! Doing so is considered vandalism.
Wasabi is a notoriously difficult plant to grow, and this understandably accounts for its high price. The wasabia japonica needs to be partly submerged in clean, moving water (which isn’t common in most farming setups), and it can be killed by even the slightest changes in the environment.
As such, only a few regions in Japan have the right conditions to commercially cultivate wasabi, which is why many conveyor belt sushi restaurants and Western restaurants use cheaper horseradish instead of real wasabi. To make the most of real wasabi, you’ll want to grate it yourself with a shark skin-coated or porcelain grater. This way, you’ll experience the full flavor and texture of the root.