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Japanese designers and engineers have earned a reputation for improving products invented by others, allowing them to become saleable, desirable and popular. Consider the videotape recorder, for example. Invented by AMPEX in the mid-1950s, the concept was taken to its logical extension by Japanese electronics giant JVC and introduced to the masses in 1976 as the VHS cassette. This time, however, Japan’s creative techies think they can improve on Mother Nature, and by jove I think they’ve done it!
The Square Watermelon… chew on that for a moment, if you will. The first question that comes to mind is, "Why?" Well, besides its novelty value, there are actually several darned good reasons for making a watermelon in a square shape. Since these things make great gifts, it makes sense to package them in boxes and a square shape fits into a square box with the minimum amount of wasted space. In addition, the shape naturally lends itself to being bedecked in a decorative ribbon, birthday-present style. Think of it, a delicious watermelon packed in a home-grown gift box! And a gift that will be appreciated, knowing the cost: figure about $80 & change for one of these babies compared to about $20 for a boring, unfashionable oval one. Naturally, you’re going to want to chill your prized gift, and the shape fits perfectly inside a Japanese refrigerator. Take it out, and it won’t roll away!
After "Why?", you’re probably wondering "How?"… and no, they aren’t grown from square seeds. Farmers in Zentsuji, located in southern Japan, place the small on-the-vine watermelons in tempered glass forms that force the growing melons to conform to their shape while still receiving necessary sunlight. Only about 400 of the four-sided fruits are grown each season. One would suppose that triangular or pyramid-shaped watermelons could also be created using this technique, but then we’d be back to "Why?" and this is the "How?" section.
The Square Watermelon can be found in Japanese grocery stores in Tokyo and Osaka and is not currently available in the USA. Square watermelons grown in Brazil have lately become available in Great Britain, though, so we may be enjoying them here yet! Prices in Japan are in the $80 – $85 range (about 10,000 yen) when in season.