Tasting Japan’s $10 banana

Aimee Levitt
·2 min read
Workers collect bananas in a greenhouse
Workers collect bananas in a greenhouse

Quantities of supply and demand can vary from country to country, but rest assured that a $10 banana is as common a thing in Japan as it is in the U.S—that is to say, not very. The vast majority of bananas in Japan (as in, 99.98%) , reports the Asian news website SoraNews24, are imported and cost the equivalent of 50 cents. Just like in the U.S. But then there’s that last .02%.

These bananas are all produced by a company called 946 Bananas in the town of Kushiro in Hokkaido Prefecture. And yes, they cost 1,080 yen apiece, approximately $10.40. That’s not the weirdest thing about them, though. The weirdest thing is that Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost prefecture, and bananas are, as we know, a tropical fruit. Still, I have been told that bananas that are grown in greenhouses in Iceland using volcanic dirt are particularly delicious, so who am I to judge? Anyway, 946 bananas are a new varietal of the Phantom Gros Michel, bred to withstand the cold temperatures of Hokkaido without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and had their first harvest last December.

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The journalists at SoraNews24 are pros, so they decided to taste the 946 bananas for themselves. They ordered three, which arrived individually wrapped in a nice box lined with packing straw. The 946 bananas were significantly larger than the imported supermarket variety, suitable for display. “But we’re not Victorian-era aristocrats buying tropical fruit for decorative purposes,” SoraNews24 informed us. “Food is for feasting, and it was time to dig in!”

The tasters found that the 946 bananas were “moist and rich” with “a powerful, but not overpowering, sweetness.” The peels were thin and, in theory, also edible, but the tasters found them too bitter for eating out of hand; the distributor suggested leaving them on, though, for blending into smoothies and cooking.

The 946 bananas are still extremely rare—Hokkaido Sky Farm, where they are grown, cultivated just 900 trees—and the 946 website was extremely light on information about, well, anything, except how to buy them. Have any of our readers tried a 946 banana?