The Gift of Grapes

Fresh fruits and vegetables are popular in Japan–as everywhere–but fruit in particular holds pride of place. It’s more expensive here than in the United States, and often larger, too.

The most unique way Japanese fruit diverges from its U.S. counterpart (at least in my opinion) is the presence of gift stores selling specially-packaged fruit. The shops sell only fruit and a small assortment of fruit jellies (both the spreadable kind and the kind that has the texture of Jell-o and comes in small plastic containers). Each piece of fruit is perfect, large and unblemished, and individually packaged in plastic or paper designed to protect the delicate produce until its delivery to the lucky recipient.

While shopping in Akihabara last weekend, I passed one of these gift shops and stopped to admire the spectacular produce: Perfect apples the size of grapefruits rested gently in soft mesh nests. Spherical melons with marbled skins sat in boxes filled with Christmas tissue.

Best of all, vibrant clusters of perfect grapes–green and purple–waited in their paper cartons for someone to answer their siren song and take them home.

I adore fresh fruit in any season, but particularly in winter, when perfect fruit is sometimes hard to find. Grapes, in particular, often look tired and careworn in December, and the sight of the gorgeous clusters in the gift store proved too tempting.

So I did what any sensible person would do.

I bought them both.

My son found this amusing.

“You do know they’re meant to be given as gifts?” he asked. “You can find less expensive ones at the market.”

“Less expensive, and less perfect,” I replied. “Besides, I wanted these–and there isn’t a market around but we’re here now.”

“I’m not objecting.” He paused. “Are you sharing?”

He likes grapes as much as I do. Which is part of the reason I bought them both.

As of this morning, the grapes are gone, but they were absolutely worth the price. Sweet, delicious, and perfect in every way. Sometimes, in life, we get caught up in the “have-to-do” and forget to treat ourselves. We see the grapes, but think of them as a gift for others rather than something we can–and should–take the time to enjoy as well.

The next time you’re out and see a chance to give yourself a special gift–whether it’s grapes, a new hat, or even just five minutes’ peaceful rest on a bench enjoying the silence and the view–take the time. Appreciate yourself. It’s one of the most important gifts you can either give or receive.

What do you think about “gift fruit”? Is it a gift you’d like to receive?