July 16, 2004
I saw these melons on sale in Kyoto for two for about 50 US dollars. Seems they were grown in Hokkaido.
They are on sale and nicely packaged for what is called "Ocyuugen" お中元 "Ocyuugen is a time period in the middle of the year when you are supposed to give gifts to those who have helped you out.
I wonder how often people give melons for this holiday. Honestly, I don't know very much about this topic.
At the end of the year, there is another period called "Oseibo" お歳暮. Apparently this is the same thing, but it happens at the end of the year.
Do people give melons during "Oseibo" too? Are they just as expensive?
I haven't seen any of my friends going out buying things to get ready for this or anything... is this some that only older adults participate in or something?
I think this is the first time I have posted about something I know so little about! (Actually... I take that back. I usually don't know what the heck I'm writing about.)
Posted by Harvey at July 16, 2004 09:24 AM
I too was deeply confused when I saw $25 cantaloupes. Why would I spend so much on one when they cost $2.50 at the food store here? According to my Japanese friends, they're "much sweeter than they are in America." But that's the Japanese justification for any high price, so I cannot accept that as a valid explanation.
I've seen melons at a speciality store in Shinjuku that sold for 10,000 yen.
There are various reasons for the high price, but one of the strangest reasons is that it is because Japanese expect them to be. Very few people would buy these melons for themselves; rather, they would buy them as gifts for esteemed friends or business relations. Some Japanese are very concerned about status and such. If they buy a 10,000 yen melon, they expect that a 10,000 yen "message" is conveyed.
That same melon could probably be sold at 2,000 yen for a profit. But the buyers don't want to send a 2,000 yen gift; they are sending a 10,000 yen gift. If the same melon could be found much cheaper, then it's value to the recipient would be much cheaper as well, possibly causing offense, or even the loss of one's promotion or job.
My father-in-law was apparently a very high ranking bureaucrat in his day, and received lots of such things from his underlings. Many times the givers just want to give the most expensive X that they can find...
I don't think melons are in season at the end of the year so I don't think you'll see them then. I could be wrong, though.
As Joepet inferred, the giving of these kinds of gifts are mainly related to giri -- obligation. An obligation to acknowledge the myriad relationships gluing Japanese society together. Friends may follow the traditions by exchanging greeting cards.
Next time you're at your depato check out the chuugen gift counter & catalogs. Oh, what am I thinking, just can take a look online.
The Yuubari melons are only 12th on the list of most popular items according to Yahoo.
I just now noticed the melon's label. "Red Meat Melons." Seems like possible dajyare fodder given the right time & place.
man, in the close-in pic that melon looks sooooo good tho... *drool*
(oh yeah, saw a link to this site from jref.com... thought i'd check it out ^^)