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An anonymous buyer bought a crate containing 100 mandarin oranges for one million yen or $9,600 at an auction that was the first of the season at Ota Market in Tokyo, Japan.
After the auction, some people speculated that the extravagant bid was a publicity stunt, while others thought it was a celebratory tribute to the Japanese agriculture industry.
The mandarin oranges came from the Nishiuwa District and are famous for being succulent, sweet, and easy to peel. Director Kazuhiro Takenaka from the Nishiuwa Agricultural Cooperative said that fruits from the district this year have a balanced sweetness and acidity.
The fruits in the million-yen crate came from the coastal city of Yawatahama where they were exposed to what is called three suns – the sun in the sky, the reflected sunlight from the sea, and the reflected sunlight from the walls of the surrounding fields.
The fruits are costly because of the limited supply and high demand. Only about 100 farmers grow the oranges.
It has been an annual tradition to assess the quality of the season’s fruits during the very first auction. Results of the first auction typically have a significant impact on the sales of the fruits. Many people assumed that the pandemic would negatively affect this year’s auction, but the crate’s winning bid proved that assumption wrong.
This year’s Nishiuwa mandarin oranges will be distributed across Japan until January. According to Dean Soyeon Shim of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, mandarin oranges and other fruits are highly valued in Asian culture, especially in Japanese society, where they are considered as luxury items and are part of social and cultural practices, such as gift giving.