Don't whine about the price: Japan grapes sell for US$8,000

 Hotel Nikko Kanazawa executive chef Masayuki Hirai displaying a box of 'Ruby Roman' grapes after the first auction of the season at Kanazawa central wholesale market on July 9, 2015 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan. The grape, which weighs 700g, was auc
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa executive chef Masayuki Hirai displaying a box of 'Ruby Roman' grapes after the first auction of the season at Kanazawa central wholesale market on July 9, 2015 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan. The grape, which weighs 700g, was auctioned at the price of one million Japanese yen (S$11,134).PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

TOKYO (AFP) - A bunch of Japanese grapes has sold for a record one million yen (S$11,134), or about 38,000 yen per berry - no trifling matter even in a country where fruit can cost a small fortune.

The record-setting bunch of 26 "Ruby Roman" grapes was the highest-priced at this year's first auction in Kanazawa, 300 kilometres northwest of Tokyo, smashing the previous record of 550,000 yen set last year.

Each berry weighs at least 20 grams and is the size of a ping-pong ball, according to the local board of agriculture.

Winning bidder Masayuki Hirai, head chef of the Nikko hotel in Kanazawa, told media he had been under strict orders, with local tourism chiefs eager to capitalise on a new train line to the area.

"With the opening of the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) line, I was told to win the bidding at any cost," he said.

For connoisseurs of eye-wateringly-priced fruit, Japan is Seventh Heaven.

Earlier this year, a pair of Yubari melons from Hokkaido, northern Japan - considered a status symbol - were snapped up for a jaw-dropping 1.5 million yen.

Meanwhile, a Japanese department store thought nothing of shelling out 300,000 yen for a pair of pristine mangoes grown in southern Japan.

Japanese often give top-notch fruits such as melons as gifts, and virgin batches often sell for extraordinary prices, making national headlines and creating a lucrative market for fruit boutiques to flourish despite Japan's sluggish economy.

Square and even heart-shaped watermelons are all the rage and, while 38,000 per grape is extreme, many Japanese will happily pay through the nose for fruit - even the regular round-shaped variety.

Single white peaches the size of a newborn baby's head can go for more than 2,000 yen while a bunch of Muscat of Alexandria grapes could lighten your wallet to the tune of a cool 7,000 yen.