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Japanese Minister Leaves Cabinet To Become Durian Cheerleader

Japanese minister becomes durian promoter

Taro Kono, the former Japanese foreign minister, surprised everyone by becoming a durian promoter. The durian is well known among Southeast Asia as the “King of Fruits”.  With its imposing smell and appearance, the spiky fruit is certainly worthy of its regal nickname. It’s no wonder that Kono has fallen so deeply in love with it. 

Minister Kono’s durian escapades

Previously the foreign minister of Japan, Taro Kono left the cabinet and accepted an invitation from the Japan Durian Promotion Association to become their honorary chairman.   

Japanese durian minister - Taro Kono
Image credit: @vpointworld

He is currently the director of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s public affairs department. 

Taro Kono declared himself a big fan of the durian fruit, even going so far as to say that he would have accepted the post as honorary chairman earlier if he could. 

“When I was in the cabinet, I was not permitted to take up a position in an association such as this, but after I left the cabinet last year, I was able to join,” he said in an interview with Asiaone. 

So enamoured is the ex-minister with durian that he tried to convert more followers to his “cult”. 

“But even before [taking up the durian chairman post], I had a durian party in my office and invited all my team to come and try the fruit. Most of them had never tried durian before, but once they had tasted it, they were converted.”

Japanese durian minister - durian half
Image adapted from: @korek_durian

The durian is a fruit that originates from Southeast Asia and is not native to Japan. So it’s surprising that ex-minister Kono is such a big fan of the unusual fruit. 

The beginning of Kono’s durian journey

According to Kono, he developed his liking for the fruit in Singapore, where he worked for Fuji-Xerox in the early 1990s. He stayed there for two years before becoming Japan’s foreign minister, and was introduced to Singapore’s favourite fruit by his colleagues. 

Japanese durian minister - many durians
Image credit: @wtfdurian

When he first encountered the fruit, Kono thought that the smell was a bit pungent, but he has since gotten used to the aroma of the kingly durian.

Minister’s promotion of durians in Japan 

Right now, Kono’s main purpose as the honorary chairman of the Japan Durian Promotion Association is to promote to his fellow Japanese the benefits of eating, importing, and growing the supposed “King of Fruits”. 

Japanese durian minister - crop durian
Image credit: @korek_durian 

He and his associates seek to begin commercial growing of the fruit in Japan for both the domestic market and for export as it is difficult to obtain quality durians in Japan at a reasonable price due to taxes. 

In Japan, durians from Thailand or Vietnam sell for approximately ¥6,000 (~USD52.10), and higher grade durians sell for even more. 

Kono cites that there is a high selling potential for durians in Japan simply due to its scarcity; the association hopes to “create durian-related products and sell them in China through the activities of [their] association”.

Japanese durian minister - durian mooncake
Durian mooncakes from K.U.S.A.I.
Image credit: K.U.S.A.I

China’s consumption of durians has increased tremendously in recent years. Due to Japan’s proximity to both China and Taiwan, Kono and his associates wish to tap into that market and have Japan be the supplier of China’s durians, instead of Malaysia or Thailand. 

The goal is to replicate Japan’s previous success with breeding other fruits native to the southern hemisphere so that they could grow in Japan’s climate – the durian can only be grown in areas above 15℃.

In the same interview with Asiaone, Kono states that there is currently already one firm in Okinawa that is trying to grow durians. The temperature in Okinawa is much warmer than mainland Japan, which makes it easier for the durians to grow. Additionally, Okinawa is near to China and Taiwan, making it the perfect spot to produce durians.  

Japanese minister loves durians

It is surprising that someone from Japan loves durians this much, especially one who’s in a prominent role. We wish Taro Kono all the best in his durian endeavours, and hope that someday we’ll get to try those Japanese durians!   

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Cover image adapted from (left to right): @vpointworld and @korek_durian