March 22nd, 2016 by The Watermelon Guy

Gifting fruit isn’t necessarily traditional in the United States, but in different parts of the world, giving fruit is customary. This entry from 2014 explains how giving fruit — especially unusually-shaped fruit — is popular in Japan and should probably become a custom here in the United States!


Did you know that in Japan it’s customary for people to give fruit as a gift? It’s not uncommon for someone to present a neighbor with a simple orange or a small bunch of grapes. Yep, fruit is pretty much revered in Japan. Well, maybe not revered, but they do take fruit pretty seriously, and that’s a good thing.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

They’ve even got high-end “fruit emporiums” where people can buy expensive, perfectly shaped fruits to give as gifts at special occasions like weddings, business meetings and hospital visits.

One store sells apples for $21 each, strawberries for $69 a dozen and cherries for $159 per box, but the star product is the legendary square watermelon, which carries a price tag of more than $200. I’ve talked in the past about how the square watermelon are made — essentially, the watermelons are grown inside a special, square-shaped box — but the video below offers a closer look.

The most incredible insight from the video: The super-expensive watermelons aren’t intended for eating because most of them aren’t even edible! That’s because they’re harvested before they’re fully ripe. Instead, most proud owners of square watermelon simply keep them as a decorative accessory (they can be displayed for up to a year).

I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’d be able to “display” a watermelon for a year in my house. The longest I’ve ever kept a watermelon on my countertop was 37 and a half hours before I cut that sucker open and devoured it.


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June 29th, 2010 by The Watermelon Guy

In Western culture, the piñata has become a party favorite. After all, who doesn’t love beating the stuffing out of something with a stick now and then? It’s also yielded more than its fair share of hilarious videos. Any time you put a stick in the hands of a five-year-old, blindfold him, spin him around a few times and tell him to swing said stick in a room full of people,  bad things are bound to happen to people standing within 10 feet.

In Japan, the piñata game has taken on a decidedly different twist. Instead of a papier-mache pony filled with candy, a watermelon is used as the target. The tradition is called suikawari and, according to Wikipedia:

The rules are similar to piñata. A watermelon is laid out, sometimes on a tarp, and participants one by one attempt to smash it open. Each is blindfolded, spun around three times, and handed a wooden stick, or bokken, to strike with. The first to crack the watermelon open wins. Afterward, the chunks of watermelon produced are shared among participants.

I’m happy to see that the stick, blindfold and spinning are still part of the game, even though I feel kind of bad for the watermelon. What’s missing is the candy that rains from the ceiling, but to be quite honest, I’d rather have pieces of watermelon anyhow!

Below is a video of a game of suikawari. In this one, the watermelon wins!

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July 13th, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy

square-watermellons_1Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: It doesn’t matter what shape the watermelon is, it’s what’s inside that matters. That said, you have to admit there’s something cool about watermelons that defy convention by assuming different shapes.

Last month, I talked about Japanese farmers who had figured out a way to grow heart-shaped watermelons. Of course, the precursor to those sweethearts are the unusual square watermelons that got their start in Japan almost a decade ago. But how are they grown, and why bother tampering with Mother Nature? Both are good questions. I’m glad I asked them.

First, the how. It’s actually pretty easy (relatively speaking) to grow a square watermelon. Just about anyone can do it. While the watermelon is still small on the vine, a square, tempered glass box is placed around it. When the watermelon gets bigger, it assumes the shape of the box! You can do this too. There are even websites dedicated to teaching you how. Just remember to use a glass or transparent mold so the sunlight can reach the watermelon on all sides (except the bottom, I guess).

And why are square watermelons grown? Two reasons actually. First, the square watermelons are easier to stack, which makes them easier to ship. Second, and perhaps most ingeniously, with space being an issue in crowded areas of Japan, the square watermelon is designed to fit perfectly inside smaller Japanese refrigerators.

But, just like the heart-shaped creations, square watermelons cost a bit more than one shaped by Mother Nature. It’s a small price to pay for the ability to store it in your fridge, although I guess you could just cut up a normal watermelon and make it fit. Oh well… the square ones still look pretty darn cool.

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June 10th, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy


File this one under “awesome” and “I want one now!” Japanese farmers have been experimenting with growing watermelon in shapes other than the traditional round or oblong shapes we’re used to seeing (case in point, the square watermelon and pyramid watermelon).

Now they’ve taken it one step further with the heart-shaped watermelon! Hirochi Kimura and his wife spent three years perfecting the art of growing these tokens of affection on their farm in Kumamoto, Japan. They say the shape symbolizes “their passion for farming and their affection for each other.”

Judging by the photo above, the couple’s hard work paid off beautifully. (I have trouble growing normal-shaped things in my garden!) And here’s the kicker: Unlike the now famous square watermelons, these heart-shaped watermelons are created without the use of forms placed around the fruit to shape it while it grows.

Twenty of the creations were shipped to a few Japanese department stores just in time for Mother’s Day last Sunday. The cost: 15,750 yen each. That translates to roughly 162 American dollars. Hopefully, the cost comes down as the Kimuras find a way to mass produce their gardening art!

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