Pair of Japanese premium melons sell for record $39,000

The pair of Yubari melons were the first to go under the hammer in 2018 at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in Hokkaido. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A single pair of premium melons on Saturday fetched a record 3.2 million yen (S$39,236) at auction in Japan, where the fruit is regarded as a status symbol.

Seasonal fruit offerings in Japan routinely attract massive sums from buyers seeking social prestige, or from shop owners wanting to attract customers to "ooh and aah" over the extravagant edibles.

The winning bid was placed by a local fruit packing firm 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 new car in Japan - topped the previous record for the luxury fruit, which fetched 3.0 million yen two years ago.

"Yubari melons are growing well this year as sunshine hours have been long since early May," said market official Tatsuro Shibuta.

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.

Even ordinary fruit is comparatively expensive in Japan and it is not unusual for a single apple to cost as much as S$4.

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