Premium Yubari melons sold for more than $16,000 at Japan auction

The successful bidder (centre) showing the pair of Yubari melons after this year's first auction at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in Sapporo on May 22, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 
The successful bidder (centre) showing the pair of Yubari melons after this year's first auction at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in Sapporo on May 22, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 

TOKYO (AFP) - A single pair of premium melons fetched an eye-watering 1.5 million yen (S$16,560) at an auction in Japan on Friday.

The winning bid was placed by a local fruit wholesaler for the first Yubari melons to go under the hammer this year at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in northern Hokkaido, officials said.

The figure - enough to buy a brand new car in Japan - is some way short of the record for the luxury fruit, which fetched 2.5 million yen last year.

High prices are the norm for the opening auction of the season and reflect buyers' desire for prestige.

Yubari melons are considered a status symbol in Japan - like a fine wine - with many being bought as a gift for friends and colleagues.

The best-quality Yubari melons are perfect spheres with a smooth, evenly patterned rind. A T-shaped stalk is left on the fruit, which is usually sold in an ornate box.

While the prices they fetch at auction are very high, melons are not the only expensive fruit in Japan.

A single apple from a supermarket can cost more than US$3 (S$4) and a presentation pack of 20 cherries might sell for over US$100.