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SAPPORO (Kyodo) A pair of cantaloupes from the bankrupt city of Yubari, Hokkaido, fetched a whopping 2 million yen at the first auction of the season at the Sapporo central wholesale market, the Japan Agricultural Cooperative’s Yubari unit said.

The price paid by Marui Imai Inc., a Sapporo-based department store, for the upmarket produce surpassed the previous record of 800,000 yen for two cantaloupes, JA Yubari said.

“Perhaps the city’s designation as a financially rehabilitating entity ironically helped generate an advertising effect,” said a spokesperson for the former coal town, which went bankrupt last year. “This will encourage the city a lot.”

The two melons were put on display at Marui Imai’s flagship outlet priced at 1 million yen apiece. Yoshikazu Hoshino, 59, a purchasing officer at the department store, said the cantaloupes were more for publicity than profit.

“We were bullish in the bidding because we’re celebrating our 135th anniversary this year. We wanted as many customers as possible to see them,” he said.

One of the million-yen fruits has already been sold, the store said.

Other shoppers were stunned by the price.

“It’s not a price I can afford,” said Ryoko Hino, a 79-year-old shopper.

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