Japanese Crown Melon in the USA

Japan Asia

Japanese Crown Melon, one of the most expensive fruits in the world has made its journey to the United States. Now customers can find the Crown Melon in multiple cities across the United States. At the end of 2021, The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved authorization for the importation of all varieties of fresh melon fruit with stems from Japan into the United States. This opened an opportunity for a sales manager from Shizuoka, Japan to pursue his dream to sell Japanese Crown Melon in the United States. The Crown Melon journeyed to America’s most popular landscapes and cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami and more.

Yosuze Suzuki, Displaying crown melon across landmarks in the United States. [Image: Courtesy of Yosuze Suzuki]
Yosuze Suzuki, Displaying crown melons across landmarks in the United States. [Image: Courtesy of Yosuze Suzuki]

Crown melons have been cultivated in Shizuoka using the same process for about a hundred years. It is carefully taken care of by hand for 100 days (about 3 and a half months), only growing a single fruit on each vine to ensure all the nutrients are concentrated to the melon. The nutritious melons are then delicately rubbed with gloves to stimulate growth and natural sweetness. To prevent sunburn during hot days, melons are protected with caps, and during harvesting, each melon is graded based on its skin quality, shape, and overall appearance. The unique taste, fragrance, and perfect shape is what determines and carries its brand as a crown melon.

In an interview with East-West Center Young Professional Dolgorjav Jigmedsenge, Yosuze Suzuki says he sells around 200 crown melons each week. One melon cost around $150 at high-end grocery stores and restaurants in the United States. The reasons behind the high price of Japanese crown melon are the labor that goes into its production and the quality of the fruit.

This authorization by APHIS of fresh melon into the United States means there are multiple stages of protective measures to mitigate risk during importation. Rigorous inspections are conducted by United States APHIS and a phytosanitary certificate issued by the Japanese national plant protection organization is required to validate the quality and safety of the melon.

At the same time, to maintain quality and fame, farmers spend enormous amounts of effort to protect the melon during shipment until it reaches final customers. To prepare for shipment, a crown melon gets carefully packed and certified professional examiners investigate the level of sugar content, freshness, flavor, and ripeness to ensure melons meet the standard requirements.

This process allows each crown melon to get its “crown melon” label along with its grower’s number printed. Following these investigations, melons that meet the requirements are shipped to final destinations. The example of crown melons shows opportunities for farmers to trade their products can strengthen relations between the United States and Japan across different variables such as trade, investment, government, and cultural ties. According to 2017 Japanese Ministry of Finance data, Japanese prefectures exported $129 billion in goods to the United States.

When farmers are financially sustainable, they not only support themselves and their families, but also their employees, local equipment dealers, farm service suppliers and the rural communities where they live and do business. This can promote sustainable income generation for agriculture businesses and rural communities.

Dolgorjav Jigmedsenge is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington DC. She recently obtained her MPS degree at Cornell University with a minor in International Development and Development Economics.