A pair of specially grown hybrid melons cultivated in the city of Yubari, Hokkaido, fetched a record ¥5 million ($45,500) on Friday in the season's first auction.

The bid price at a Sapporo wholesale market beat the all-time high of ¥3.2 million paid in the first auction of Yubari melons last year.

The premium cantaloupe is known for its soft juicy orange-colored flesh and high sugar content. The melons usually sell for ¥4,000 to ¥10,000 each and are often given as gifts in Japan.

The successful bidder, Tokyo-based Pokka Sapporo Food & Beverage Ltd., said it decided to make a bid — its first at the auction — to mark the 10th anniversary of the release of its melon-flavored soda water.

"As our company was founded in Sapporo, I had been thinking there must be something I can do for Hokkaido," said President Yoshihiro Iwata, 57.

The company said it plans to first display the melons at Sapporo Dome and New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, before taking them for color and scent analysis to help in the development of new products.

The harvesting of melons began Thursday morning in Yubari, a city widely known for its production of the fruit, and is expected to reach its peak in early July, according to the local agricultural cooperative.