There’s one thing you just have to enjoy in Japanese summer, and that are watermelons. Imagine mom saying “Kids, the watermelon is ready!” And “I’m coming, mom!” A big round watermelon being cut open on a table… BUT! Japanese watermelons are no longer round! Today PingMag shows off our favourite watermelon collection and gives a bit of insight into plant breeding.
Written by Ryoko
Translated by Junko
Watermelons in interesting shapes all started with a cubic watermelon that a farmer in the Kagawa prefecture grew about 20 years ago. Originally, this was created on the idea that a watermelon in the shape of a cube would fit more readily in a compact refrigerator. (How efficient the Japanese are!) Unfortunately, though, the odd shape had an adverse effect on their sweetness, and they are mainly sold as decorations.
Since not so many square watermelons are harvested (between 800 and 1,000 per season) the price naturally goes up to about 12,000 yen, which is about 98 US Dollars or 71 Euro! However, its unusual shape brings it a lot of attention from all over the world. Not only have European and Hong Kong media featured THE watermelon, but also the president of an Asian country and a Syrian senior official have bought the surprising melons! Today, these strange watermelons from Japan have become known all around the world.
High-ranking government officials of Syria seemingly happy with this strange fruit they have found.
Various watermelons seen in a Japanese shop.
Round, square, what is next? Yes: triangular. Here comes the “pyramid watermelon” from Hokkaido. Because the method of cultivation is quite difficult compared to the cubic one, between five and ten pyramid watermelons are produced each year. Consequently, this amounts to a whopping 80,000 yen (650 US Dollars or 480 Euro)!
But creating uniquely shaped watermelons doesn’t stop at simple geometric shapes… Here is a human-faced watermelon from Fukuoka. It’s funny and cute and one look at it will surely make you smile. You will probably even find yourself talking to it… Since it is originally created as an interior decoration, you can’t expect it to taste exactly wonderful. This funny face is mostly purchased by restaurants where they are put on display.
A friendly looking “human-faced watermelon.”
It looks so lifelike, you might not be able to bear actually cutting into it. By the way, its price is somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 yen.
You have probably been wondering how on earth these strange watermelons are created. We surely won’t spare you the details! For that, we interviewed Mr. Okumura of Fruits Village Okumura, where the cubic and pyramid watermelons are sold:
“I can’t really talk in detail about how they are created, because it’s a patented process. But I can tell you the farmers first make a frame and put a small watermelon in it, just like pouring metal in a mold. The watermelon fills the given shape as it grows. There is a much more complex and secret method for creating the human faced one, though…,” Mr. Okumura explains.
Can only watermelons be grown into such strange shapes? No, there’s more! Students of the Atsumi Agricultural High School invented and cultivated cubic melons called “Kaku-Melo” as Kaku means “angle” in Japanese. Unlike the watermelons for decorative use, a Kaku-Melo is really sweet and tasty. And, you can buy a whole melon for just 15,000 yen which might be nearly a bargain compared to earlier mentioned products.
Mr. Okumura continues:
”It just started from an idea of high school students, but then it got bigger and bigger. The students were granted a cultivation patent, and its name, Kaku-Melo, is now an officially registered trademark. This was done with the cooperation of a local agricultural cooperative, a polytechnic high school, and an industrial high school. You can see Kaku-Melo at shops in the beginning of July.”
A square melon, the Kaku-Melo.
Surprise! Cutting the melon yields this interesting shape. Sweet and delicious!
Well, there is one more! The JR Chiba Midori Asahi cucumber departmental meeting produces the “Heart stick” and the “Star Festival stick.”
When a cucumber is still small…
…it’s put into a heart-shaped container and allowed to grow.
Lots of stars and hearts appear when you cut them!
Not only something for the kids to enjoy!
The price, 258 yen, is a little higher than regular cucumbers – but they are fresh and crisp, and the shapes are wonderful.
This is a virtual midyear present from PingMag to you all.
Hope you enjoyed the story of funny shaped watermelons, a cubic melon, and lovely cucumbers. Please don’t hesitate to tell us when you find interesting fruits and vegetables in your local veggie store!
And, thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Okumura!