Certain things in the world exist cross-culturally, yet have different significance and application within those cultures. For example, one animal that is a mere household pet or livestock may be considered god-like, or mystical in another country….
Or for another example, events in Japan that also exist in America as well as other countries take on a slightly different form…
Cultural significance of something depends on many factors. Religious influence, history, availability, or price may have an effect on the way people partake in something. Or, something may have an intrinsic foreign value that caters to the exotic interests of consumers and comes to be considered rare/unique/amazing.
Sometimes, if we are coming from a certain cultural background and not prepared for these different interpretations of animals, games, foods, etc, we may experience some sort of culture shock. However, there are even less serious things which take our cultural mindsets by surprise, and often times provide great entertainment or conversation topics.
Watermelon in Japan is one of those things. I, as a child in America, of course ate watermelon frequently as a snack, or even part of my lunch. I was never interested in watermelon as an icon of pop culture or luxury, but rather was just interested in eating it like a sloppy little kid. Watermelon in America is a traditional food for farming families because they had a high yield and tasted great on a hot summer day. Hence, this is the image that watermelon has gained in America; a tasty and abundant food that is a cheap option for a lunch-time snack….and just that.
These are American watermelons on the left, and are generally sold in stores for about 40 cents per pound (they always have SO MANY watermelons for sale!).
Needless to say, the first thing that surprised me about watermelons in Japan was the price.
3 triangles of watermelon prepared and wrapped cost about the same as one WHOLE melon in America! Could this be because of the tough farming climate and geography in Japan, or is there greater cultural forces at work keeping the price high, and watermelon on the top shelf??
Maybe you have heard of the “Densuke Suika” in Japan which sells for record prices. This one here was about 4,000 USD I think…
This isn’t always the case, but some sort of Japanese fanaticism about watermelons pushed it up to this price.
Japan seems to take watermelons (along with other fruits as well) out of purely the food context and blends it with pop culture to give the watermelon its own personality or vibe. Clothing, decorations, and artistic themes reach all new heights through watermelon fixation in Japan. I think in America we have stuff like watermelon Halloween costumes for kids and stuff, but Japan takes it to a new level. I didn’t exactly have culture shock here, but this is certainly super cool!
Check out Omotenashi TV/Deep Japan’s facebook page to see the many sides of watermelon in Japan! Thanks Japan for once again being enthusiastic about something random!