Slim Pickings

So back home we have the good old “5 a day” motto. Which means 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. How many people actually follow this rule, is another story. For me eating 5 portions of veg isn’t a problem, I love vegetables so much but when it comes to fruit, I could take it or leave it. Apples hurt my teeth, bananas make me gag and everything else goes off way too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit as a treat once in a while but the thought of eating 5 portions everyday, makes me feel a little bit nauseous.

We’re lucky in the UK that fruit and vegetables are treated as a necessity and as such aren’t subjected to luxury tax. With our terrible climate, almost everything is imported so it’s surprising that so many kinds of fruit are so cheap. Of course it’s a little annoying having to fork out a fiver for a punnet of cherries or going to the ends of the earth to find a durian priced at £10, but in general, I’d say fruit back home is priced on the cheap side.

In Japan fruit is treated as a luxury item and is given a premium price to match. With such a diverse climate, almost anything can be grown here but that also means paying a high price for Japanese labor. In Japan I get the impression that fruit is seen as a treat food, something you should eat as often as you would cakes or sweets. This is reflected by supermarkets full of huge gift boxes complete with ribbons, and tissue paper displaying a couple of regular looking – albeit polished – apples. I’ve even seen melons priced at an eyewatering 10,000yen. That’s about 70 quid. Who in their right mind is going to pay that for a melon? You’d never want to eat the thing! I’d want it in an airtight container to display on my mantelpiece.

Fruit seasons are also really regimented here. I get that certain fruits are seasonal but back in the UK we’re able to get pretty much any fruit we can think of all year round, even it means paying a much higher price. In Japan, if you want out of season strawberries you just can’t get them. One day you’ll see shelves and shelves of juicy strawberries, the next day – nothing. Like so many “seasons” in Japan, a fruit season is from a certain date
to a certain date. FULL STOP. It’s kind of like right now, it’s about 110 degrees and yet the beaches are empty. This is because Marine Day hasn’t been yet. Marine Day is when beaches officially open and this window lasts for about two months. I recently told a friend that I went to the beach for a spot of sunbathing, she started laughing at me as if I was deranged and pointed out that I shouldn’t have done that because it’s not “beach season” yet. In Japan you will often hear the word “mottainai” which essentially means “waste” – whether it be the waste of a commodity or the waste of an opportunity. If not enjoying the beach on a stunning day just because some bozo hasn’t cut the beach season ribbon
isn’t “mottainai”, I don’t know what is.

I’m not so sure what my point with this post is. I guess it was just to point out that whatever you are doing right now, there is someone in the world who is paying more money than sense for a melon in a gift box. I’m not that person and I can only hope that my fruit stinginess will prevent an army of fruit flies from invading my kitchen this summer. Walking up the Trainspotting inspired stairway to my apartment, I already have more than enough insect battles to contend with.

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5,800 yen (£40) for a couple of mangoes anyone? They come in a box, of course.

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2 thoughts on “Slim Pickings

  1. I’m totally with you here. Fruit is ridicously priced here. I get my vitamin C from orange juice and a tablet. もったいない!

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