Suikawari: Japanese piñata with watermelons

Fruit is astoundingly expensive in Japan.  It’s about 380円 for a peach, roughly $5 at today’s exchange rates.  Want a box of figs?  That’ll set you back 800円 or so.  Such a contrast from the Middle East, where you could pick up a huge box of any sort of fruit for the equivalent of three or four dollars.  Watermelon in the land of milk and honey?  About 11 cents per pound.  As for figs, you could just eat ones the size of an apple off of your friends’ trees or in vacant lots for free.

Fruits from the vine

In Tokyo, an average small watermelon, or suika (西瓜, すいか, or スイカ), will set you back around 1,500円, in the neighborhood of $20.  The further from Tokyo you go towards the hills, they approach 2,000円!  And this isn’t for a particularly large watermelon!  At least they’re not exploding.

Why, you ask, an entire post dedicated to costly fruit?  Last Tuesday, our lab group drove and biked up to a spot along a river near Okutama west of Tokyo for an afternoon of grilling, swimming, and otherwise being outside of the city.  The cold river was a relief after the intense heat of Tokyo.  We spent hours hopping into the water, splashing in the shallows, and watching teenagers haul their friends into the river.


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