TOKYO – A black jumbo watermelon auctioned in northern Japan fetched a record $6,100 Friday, making it the most expensive watermelon ever sold in the country — and possibly the world.
The 17-pound premium "Densuke" watermelon, grown only on the northern island of Hokkaido, was purchased by a marine products dealer who said he wanted to support local agriculture, according to Kyodo News agency.
In a country where melons are a luxury item commonly given as gifts, the watermelon's hefty price tag follows another jaw-dropping auction last month, where a pair of "Yubari" cantaloupe melons sold for a record $23,500.
But for watermelon, Friday's winning bid drew a gasp even from veterans of the expensive-fruit market.
"This is the highest price on record for a Densuke watermelon, and that probably means it's the highest of any watermelon in Japanese history," said Kazuyoshi Ohira, a spokesman for the Tohma Agricultural Cooperative in Hokkaido.
The watermelon was the first of 65 sold as part of the season's initial harvest and one of 9,000 expected for the entire year. Unseasonably warm weather in April and May helped boost sugar content and overall quality of the watermelons this year, Ohira said.
Other Densuke watermelons won't cost quite as much. Most will retail at department stores and supermarkets for a more modest 20,000 yen to 30,000 yen $188 to $283, Ohira said.
And what makes a watermelon worth $200, much less $6,000?
Its unusual black skin, Ohira said. Inside, the watermelon is crisp and hard. And, he says, it has unparalleled taste.
"It's a watermelon, but it's not the same," he said. "It has a different level of sweetness."