Japan's luxe-fruit masters grow money on trees
WITH melons that sell for the price of a new car and grapes that go for more than US$100 (S$126) a pop, Japan is a country where perfectly formed fruit can fetch a fortune.
An industry of fruit boutiques has defied Japan's sluggish economy to consistently offer luscious produce at hefty prices - and it is always in demand.
In July, a single bunch of Ruby Roman grapes reportedly sold for 400,000 yen (S$5,140), making the plump, crimson berries worth a staggering 11,000 yen each.
Every May, a pair of canteloupe melons grown in the north of Hokkaido is auctioned off. The hammer fell on this year's pair at a cool 1.6 million yen.
While such cases are at the extreme end, top-notch fruit is a valuable commodity in the world of business in Japan, signifying just how much importance the gift giver attaches to a relationship.
"Most of our products are for gift purposes, so we collect large and high-grade products from all around Japan," said Mr Yoshinobu Ishiyama, manager of a Sun Fruits branch at Tokyo Midtown, a glitzy office-commercial tower.
Inside his bright, white-tiled emporium, mouth-watering fruit give off a heady, brain-tingling aroma as soothing music welcomes his well-heeled customers.
While Mr Ishiyama does not have anything you could trade for a mid-range car, he does have a slightly more affordable example of the Ruby Roman grapes - a snip at 31,500 yen for a bunch.
A single white peach - flavourful, perfectly round and about the size of a newborn baby's head - goes for 2,625 yen. A bunch of Muscat of Alexandria grapes has a 7,350-yen price tag.
Then, there is the unrivalled symbol of expensive gifts in Japan: Musk melons. Sitting in individual wooden boxes on the top shelf of a glass-door fridge at the back of the shop, they will set you back as much as 16,000 yen each. There are also square watermelons - grown in plastic boxes and usually for decoration - which start at 5,000 yen.
As with everything in Japan, presentation is key: Cherries are lined up in boxes, their stalks all facing the same direction; strawberries are nestled in soft packaging, their deep-red surface uniformly dotted by seeds.
No doubt, the giving of high-end fruit is about creating a lasting impression on Japanese clients, said corporate trainer Farhad Kardan.