It’s not just the musk melon that gets the royal treatment.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

It’s not just the musk melon that gets the royal treatment.

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With its red-orange hue and smooth oval shape, this variety of mango is fittingly named Taiyo no Tamago, which means “egg of the sun”. Mangoes are a tropical fruit, so farmers from the Miyazaki prefecture have the best chance of growing them in Japan, thanks to the area’s strong sunlight and high humidity. Mango cultivation began in 1986 but it took almost a decade before sweet mangoes without any blemishes could be cultivated.

The key was letting mangoes fall off the vine naturally as they ripened, so nets are now placed around each fruit to catch it as it falls. Only mangoes that weigh at least 350g and with a minimum sugar level of 15 per cent can be labelled Taiyo no Tamago.
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The cherries you’re used to are likely American ones, with a deep wine red colour and intense sweetness. While they are also sold in Japan, the country’s most popular variety is the Sato Nishiki.

These bright red orbs with creamy white flesh were first cultivated by farmer Eisuke Sato in the 20th century.

The cherries are typically grown in high plastic tunnels to protect them from rain (which causes cherry skins to crack). The trees are pollinated and pruned by hand, with only two flower buds and one vegetative bud allowed on each cluster. When the fruit begins to ripen, farmers remove the leaves around them to allow as much exposure to sunlight as possible.

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The first square watermelon was produced by graphic designer Tomoyuki Ono in 1978; he wanted a melon that could fit easily into refrigerators.

Farmers soon caught on in the 1980s and started growing them too, as they were also easier to stack and ship. But because of their inhibitive price tag, often costing two to three times more than regular round ones, they have become more popular as ornamental gifts. Luxury fruit shop Shibuya Nishimura in Tokyo sells its cubeshaped melons for 12,960 yen (S$158).

As the watermelons simply need to grow in a mould to take on a different shape, numerous variations have since popped up, including pyramid- and calabashshaped melons. Farmer Hiroichi Kimura from the Kumamoto prefecture spent three years developing his heartshaped melons, which not only look appealing, but taste delicious as well.