The melon is originally from the African continent and records indicate it was eaten in ancient Egypt and Greece, making it one of the oldest fruits in existence. It is said that Korean melons brought to Japan from China were grown during the Yayoi period (from 200 BCE to 100 CE). Later, European and American melons were introduced during the second half of the 19th century and since then many varieties have been cultivated. In Japan the melon is known as the King of Fruit for its great aroma and mellow sweetness.
Hokkaido grows the second largest amount of melons in all of Japan. They are shipped throughout Japan primarily in July and are popular as a gift item. There are many varieties of melons and more than 10 are grown in the more than 20 growing areas located in the prefecture. The most commonly grown variety is the red fleshed rupiah red, followed by the Yubari King. There are also melons with green flesh grown in Hokkaido.
Melons are mainly grown in Kyowa Town, Yubari Town and Furano City. These three municipalities account for about half of all the melon yield in Hokkaido.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Kyowa Town, Yubari City, Furano City, Nakafurano Town, Tomamae Town, Rankoshi Town, Abira Town, Kamifurano Town, Niseko Town, and Mukawa Town
The proper temperature for growing melons is rather high at between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius. Melons prefer a dry climate, which makes Hokkaido an ideal growing area. Additionally, when the nighttime temperature is high melons consume the energy they produced during the daytime through photosynthesis, but the nights are cool in Hokkaido which is a great advantage. Melons essentially store all of the glucose they created during the daytime, making them delectably sweet.
Yubari City is one of Hokkaido’s most famous growing areas. In 1957, an agricultural improvement promoter happened to see a homegrown melon at one of the farms they visited, which marked the beginning of breed improvement activities involving red fleshed melons. Local farmers gathered together and combined their aromatic and highly sweet red fleshed melons to create the new variety known as Yubari King. Initially this new variety did not win much acclaim, but thanks to the farmers’ efforts to market their product and continually maintain its quality, Yubari King became a household name in Japan.
In Kyowa Town, the largest melon producer in Hokkaido, they use optical sensors to measure the sugar content and internal quality of all locally grown melons. This makes it possible to supply the same standard of quality consistently and also has helped them to safeguard their melon brand.