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|作者：英语点津 文章来源：China Daily 点击数：48 更新时间：2017/4/12|
It looks like a jewelry shop with its high-end exterior. But a peek inside the sparkling glass display cases at any of Sembikiya's Tokyo outlets reveals expensive treasures of a surprising kind.
From heart-shaped watermelons to "Ruby Roman" grapes, which are the size of a ping pong ball, this retailer specializes in selling mouth-watering produce at eye-watering prices.
Expensive, carefully-cultivated fruit, however, is not unique to Sembikiya's stores.
Across Japan, such products regularly sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction. In 2016, a pair of premium Hokkaido cantaloupe sold for a record $27,240 (3 million yen).
"Fruits are treated differently in Asian culture and in Japanese society especially," Soyeon Shim, dean of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells CNN. "Fruit purchase and consumption are tied to social and cultural practices.
"It is not only an important part of their diet, but, perhaps more importantly, fruit is considered a luxury item and plays an important and elaborate ritual part in Japan's extensive gift-giving practices."
Cultivating high-end produce usually involves meticulous, labor-intensive practices developed by Japanese farmers.
"It's hard getting the shape of these strawberries right - they can sometimes turn out like globes," says Okuda Nichio, of his highly-prized Bijin-hime (beautiful princess) strawberries, which he tries to grow "scoop-shaped".
"It's taken me 15 years to reach this level of perfection."
His largest tennis-ball sized strawberries, of which he only produces around 500 a year, usually sell for more than 500,000 yen($4,395) each.
Rarity is a tactic also employed by the producers of Japan's "Ruby Roman" grapes, who offer just 2,400 bunches of the large red fruit each year.
"These grapes look big and red - like a ruby. It's been a painstaking process to achieve that red color," Ruby Roman spokesman Hirano Keisuke says.
In southwest Japan last year, a supermarket paid 1.1 million yen ($9,700) for a first-harvest bunch of "Ruby Roman" at auction.
Holding just 30 grapes in total, that record-breaking bunch essentially sold for $320 per grape.
So why are Japanese consumers willing to pay so much for their fruit?
Whereas in many Western cultures apples and oranges are prized for their nutritional value, the Japanese see fruit in almost spiritual terms, regularly offering it to the gods on their butsudan - or home altars - and Buddhist steps.
For this reason, high-end fruit has come to be viewed as an important symbol of respect.
"People purchase these expensive fruits to demonstrate how special their gifts are to the recipients, for special occasions or for someone socially important, like your boss," says Shim, who has conducted extensive researched into Japan's luxury fruit market.
For some consumers, a high price tag adds prestige and signifies quality.
Although not all Japanese consumers buy expensive fruit to gift -- many appreciate its rarefied taste.
But while many Japanese extol the exceptional flavors of these fruit, Cecilia Smith Fujishima, a lecturer in comparative culture at Shirayuri University in Tokyo, says it's often too sweet for her Australian-raised taste buds.
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