HACHINOHE, Aomori -- A box of 15 premier cherries fetched 450,000 yen (about $4,000) during the first auction of the season at a wholesale market in this north Japan city on June 29.
The large "Juno Heart" cherry variety was developed by the Aomori Prefectural Government, and the premier cherries with a width of 31 millimeters or more are sold under the name "Aomori Heartbeat."
"The attention level is higher than last year," said Yoshitaka Yokomachi, president of fruit and vegetable distributor Hachinohe Chuo Seika K.K. He added with expectation, "As they have not been distributed across the country, I think business inquiries will continue for a while."
On June 29, 26 boxes of Juno Heart cherries and 13 boxes of Aomori Heartbeat cherries, produced in the towns of Sannohe and Nanbu neighboring Hachinohe, were auctioned at Hachinohe's central wholesale market. When the auction started shortly after 7 a.m., sales brokers began making winning bids for the cherries one after another.
Kyoko Nagatsuka, of fruit and vegetable intermediate wholesaler Nagatsuka Seika K.K., headquartered in the east Japan city of Chiba, successfully made the top 450,000 yen bid for a box of Aomori Heartbeat cherries.
"Many people are surprised at their size and sweetness. While there are many people who still do not know about them, I would like to introduce these cherries to the whole country," she said.
The Aomori Prefectural Government plans to launch trial exports of the cherries starting this fiscal year, and they are slated to go on sale at a Japanese restaurant and a confectionery shop in Hong Kong in early July. A representative at the prefectural government's general sales strategy division commented, "The great reputation they have in this country could help us market them overseas."
Hideki Tome, a cherry producer in charge of handling cherries at the Hachinohe Agricultural Cooperative Association, said: "Though the amount produced is still small, the quality is unrivaled. We would like to establish a production system in which we can distribute them to everyone in the earliest year possible."
(Japanese original by Yushi Ezawa, Aomori Bureau)