The most expensive fruits on earth

While the Japanese might bake gorgeous cakes, make superb electronics or fuel-efficient cars (see my previous post), one thing they certainly don’t do is grow inexpensive fruits and vegetables.

The Japanese electoral system works in such a way that rural districts get over-represented in the Japanese Diet as compared to the amount of people who actually live there. For political parties, this means that getting one rural vote counts much more than getting an urban vote. Virtually all parties court the support of farmers and promise them generous subsidies and protection from foreign competition in return for their votes. In return, the farmers’ associations hold politicians and parties accountable for their promises and can withdraw their endorsement if a party fails to live up to their promises.

What this results in is that Japanese consumers pay among the highest prices anywhere in the world for food. When I first moved to Japan, I was surprised to find that rice, the everyday staple of the country, was incredibly expensive. The cheapest 5kg bag I could find set me back 18 dollars, and I bought it at the dollar store!

One vegetable that is cheap is cabbage, the omnipresent cabbage. You cannot escape it. I ate it everyday, as a sidedish to just about everything. Finely shredded cabbage makes an appearance at way too many meals, and if you’re in need of some cheap roughage, cabbage is the answer.

Tonkatsu with cabbage

At the same time, most of the Japanese I’ve met would agree that domestic produce is safer and tastes better than foreign products, and various surveys show that, given a choice, the Japanese would rather pay inflated prices for domestic products than buy stuff from abroad.

One of the items that blew me away were melons. Why anyone would pay $30-150 dollars for a melon is beyond me. They come in beautiful wooden boxes, with a ribbon attached to the stem.

These weren’t as expensive — 3 melons for 70 or 85 dollars. My hand is there with a sample I snatched for three dollars…hehe

In my last trip to Japan, I visited a melon farm to get a glimpse of the most expensive melons anywhere in the world still attached to the plant. They were protected by a piece of plastic on top and they put a little piece of styrofoam underneath to prevent them from rotting against the ground. Other than that, they just looked like melons.

I also tried an 8-dollar peach. It was good indeed (it better be!), but nothing that would make me want to spend 8 dollars again for it.

Gift boxes — you can’t afford me!

6 peaches for 38 dollars, a basket of grapes for 12-15 dollars, etc

Another reason why retailers can get away with these prices for premium fruit is that they are given as presents. A box of premium fruits or a melon is a bloody good present, and one that will set you back quite a bit of money. I bet that the worst nightmare these people have is that one day the Japanese will suddenly decide that it’s just fruit…(just like the diamond industry always worries that people will suddenly decide that they are just rocks).

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12 thoughts on “The most expensive fruits on earth

  1. Robyn

    Oh my god…

    …If all fruit costs that much in Japan, I won’t be able to afford to live there! :( I love fruuuit.

    Does the melon let you see God or something?

  2. Nico

    Ageless Zeitgeist — I wish! The blog is a break from academic writing…mmm…better get back to the thesis now.

    Robyn — Not all fruits cost this much…you can get cheap mandarins and apples, and generally speaking chinese stuff for less money.

    If god had balls, I’m sure they’d look like these melons ;)

    Toko — Yes, they taste good, once a year :P

  3. Tokyo Rosa

    in tokyo, fruit is expensive (but consistently good!)–but nothing like shopping for organic produce in the US!

    you can find lots of great, inexpensive fruit in 100 yen shops that sell groceries and in local markets. definitely DON’T buy fruit in department store basements or from the “gift fruit” shops near the stations!! (unless you’re VERY VERY wealthy anyway.)

    if you’re desperate, stalls in ameyoko market sells fruit on a stick for 100 yen. (sliced watermelon, pineapple, and i forget what else…)

  4. Mimu

    Those pricy fruits made me thinking about my mom’s trip to Japan in the 1990’s. She took a picture when they were traveling along the highway and stopped in the midway to pick apples from the apple trees on the sideway.She said those apple tasted so good cause they were the Fuji apple. Now I felt they were committing a crime by stealing apples that should be sold for expensive in the store!

    Hum…if fruits are so expensive, i wonder if regular Japanese have vitamin deficiency? haha, maybe it’s a bit stretch.. =D

  5. Nico

    Tokyo Rosa — I’ll keep the ameyoko tip in mind when I go there next. Thanks!

    Lili — lol…stealing apples. Come to think of it, I should have stolen some of the melons from the farm I visited. There was nobody in sight watching over them…hehe

  6. ayaka

    Oh, yeah! I love fruits….so Im gonna buy it anyway even though it’s expensive…That’s japanese life yo..jajaja.

    One day, I wanted to have fresh mango, peach juice. I spent more than 1000 yen to make juice. but it makes me satisfied and happy. so its ok yo. im gonna keep buying.It’s good. Someday I wanna get for 8000yen strawberries from takashimaya. must be good.

  7. Christine

    1 pound of brown rice at japanese grocery: 7 dollars.
    Huge bag of brown rice at chinese supermarket: 12 dollars.

    Now I know why there’s such a big difference.

  8. Elchin

    That day never will come … the Japanese will suddenly decide that it’s just fruit…
    Becouse they know very well that quality fruit is useful for reach healthy, but
    diamond is useful for pooer wealthy.


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