Guests at an upscale Japanese hotel had a special treat after dinner: "dream grapes" that are fresh, juicy -- and cost nearly 30 dollars a pop.
Kagaya, a renowned Japanese-style inn in the central prefecture of Ishikawa, bought a bunch of Ruby Roman grapes for 100,000 yen (910 dollars) when the first batch of the new-variety grapes went on a local market.
"We served them last evening to our repeat customers who were staying in top-notch rooms," Kagaya's chief cook Fujio Uko said Tuesday.
"We wanted to delight our customers and also wanted to wish producers good luck" on the debut day, he said.
The bunch of around 30 grapes weighed some 700 grammes (1.5 pounds). The red-skin grapes almost look like tomatoes and can be as big as three centimetres (1.2 inches) in diametre.
A pair of grapes were served to each customer, Uko said. "They said the grapes were not excessively sweet but fresh, delicious and juicy," he said.
The average price of the 48 bunches auctioned Monday was 27,000 yen (245 dollars), according to Kiyoaki Umeda, an agriculture official in the prefecture, who said the figure was higher than producers expected.
The prefecture took 14 years to put Ruby Roman on the market since it first sowed the seeds. It dubs Ruby Roman "dream grapes" and hopes they will boost the region's profile.
The prefecture plans to ship 1,500 bunches, or one tonne, of Ruby Roman this season only to the Ishikawa market, Umeda said.
"There may be a possibility of exporting them in the future but we first aim to distribute the grapes to people in the prefecture," he said.
Japanese often present top-quality fruits such as melons as gifts. The first batches of carefully grown fruit often fetch extraordinary prices, making headlines in newspapers.