With a sense of exaggeration, we could say that our little one takes the biggest ‘bite’ out of our household budget. Why is that so? Going to the supermarket in Japan is in general more expensive (than in Belgium), but what will baffle you in specific is the price of fruit. Not only a mango or a papaya will set you back hundreds of yens, also more common fruit like bananas, apples or oranges can’t be bought at a reasonable price. We’re talking EUR 3 a peach! Providing afternoon fruit to our son suddenly becomes an act of generosity. Therefore, Japanese children don’t get to eat a lot of fruit. It comes in tiny portions, intended as a snack or desert, or in the form of jelly.
It makes fruit almost a luxury product and a fruit baskets the ideal present. These gift fruits play in a higher league; not only do they taste delicious, they also have the perfect size and shape and come in special wrappings. Needless to say that prices can go to the roof! (Check out this crazy article)
Why is fruit so expensive?
If you ask around, nobody really knows. Of course Japan is an island and about half of the food is imported, but even around Furano – the fruit and vegetable basket of Japan in northern Hokkaido- fruit isn’t cheaper. That was actually one of the only disappointments on our Hokkaido trip. When we stopped at a road sign that indicated a farmer’s market, we could only buy a ¥1300 box of cherries (EUR 10).
Mr. Google provides me with several explanations:
1. Labor cost is correct (meaning higher than in other countries who rely on immigrant workers).
2. Import tax is high.
3. Quality standards are very high. Fruit is often hand picked and shelf life in stores is short because people are said to be picky (read: shops throw away a lot).
4. There is a powerful lobby collective that holds a monopoly over the market. Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA or nokyo) is said to be highly inefficient, and therefore making fruit expensive.
So what to do? There are shops or corners that sell local, seasonal fruit at a good price, but it can be hard to find them. Another option is to go hand picking yourself. Some farms open their orchards to let you pick from the trees for about ¥2000 (EUR 16). Being able to eat a lot in a limited time comes in handy!