All About Japan

The Secret of the Square Watermelon

Fruit Japanese Countryside Kagawa Shikoku

Zentsuji City in Kagawa Prefecture is home to Japan's square watermelons, famous both for being unusual and for costing hundreds of dollars U.S.

Why are they so expensive? According to this informative investigation from the guys at Only in Japan, they're meant for display, not eating, and only about 200 are grown annually. With the display goal in mind, they're intentionally harvested unripe, allowing them to last up to six months, as opposed to the usual lifespan of about a week for ripe watermelons.

Watermelons are a traditional summer snack in Japan, and while Zentsuji was once famous as a watermelon hub, the dawn of ice cream and soda pop led to a decline in demand for the big, juice-filled fruit. In response, the square watermelon was invented roughly 45 years ago in an attempt to rekindle that demand. In fact, square watermelons are patented, and can only legally be made in Zentsuji!

So how are they made? It's a matter of taking half-grown watermelons and placing them inside square boxes, after which they're allowed to grow out for about 10 days. While this sounds simple, it's actually harder than it looks—the watermelons have to be inserted carefully to avoid damage and to ensure that the stripes grow in the right direction in order to preserve their premium price!

Typically shipped beginning at the end of June each year, packaging is done by the farmers themselves, with each watermelon enclosed in its own individual box.

Watch the full video to get a sense of what one of these expensive display pieces actually tastes like!