But first, what exactly is a Densuke Watermelon ?
A Densuke Watermelon is a large black watermelon grown in Toma. All citizen of Asahikawa have heard the name of this watermelon. The first watermelons of the year are priced at several hundred thousand yen per unit. This is not something you eat everyday and even if it’s grown and sold right beside Asahikawa, a lot of its citizen doesn’t know the taste of this fruit.
The origin its name, "Densuke Watermelon," is explained on the Toma Town official website.
Why Densuke ?
The name “Densuke Watermelon” was chosen in honour of the late comedian Toshimitsu Omiya, who was popular for his appearance with his eyes and nose painted black. His stage name was "Densuke".
The name "Densuke Watermelon" was also chosen to reflect the meaning of “Densuke" (written with the paddy “田” kanji and the save “助” kanji) to save the rice paddies, threatened due to the rice acreage-reduction policy.
Since I couldn’t find the relation between the rice and the watermelon, I did some research and found out that due to the rice acreage-reduction policy a lot of rice farmers began to grow different crops on their land. To optimise the land and save money some farmers began to grow watermelons - as watermelons need plenty of water to grow healthy. This is why after harvesting the rice, watermelon were planted.
Toma’s produce hall: Densuke-san no ie (Densuke’s house)
At the Densuke’s house located in the Toma’s roadside station, Densuke watermelons are sold according to the season. As told in the introduction of this article, products related to the Densuke Watermelon are also being sold here.
When you enter the building, you will find the "Densuke Watermelon" corner in the most conspicuous place, where you can also find some Densuke watermelon related products.
Among those, our writer’s most recommended product is the Densuke Yokan, wrapped a cute little package, it looks like a small version of the standard Densuke watermelon package. The yokan is made from the juice of the Densuke watermelon.
There are also watermelon senbei crackers, Densuke Watermelon Pure Jelly and Densuke Watermelon Soda. Densuke Watermelon Pure Jelly is also available in a box, just like the yokan, it also makes a good souvenir.
There are also goodies such as towels, mugs, tissue covers, etc., with the character "Densuke Oyaji" on them. The designs are a bit... special, and making us wonder if anyone other than Toma’s residents would actually buy them.
Shop name: Roadside Station Toma
Address: Tōma-chō Uenbetsu 2-ku
Opening hours: 9:00 - 18:00
Closed: Year-end and New Year's (31 December - 3 January)
Our "Densuke Yokan" and "Watermelon Soda” review !
Our reporter bought the Watermelon Soda and the Densuke Yokan. It’s his first time buying cider but he has, however, bought the yokan once, a few years ago.
When you open the box of the Densuke Yokan, you will find a black round capsule inside, that looks just like a Densuke Watermelon.
The capsule contains five watermelon-red round yokan jellies.
Have you ever seen round, rubber-wrapped yokan before? Akan’s local speciality (a town in Kushiro’s surroundings), the Marimo yokan, is an green coloured seaweed yokan wrapped in a rubber balloon, that looks just alike the Densuke yokan.
Well, it turns out that the two local products have the same manufacturer, Hokkai Marimo Seika, the company that makes the Marimo Yokan in Akan Town.
If you've ever eaten a Marimo Yokan, you may already know that when you prick the rubber skin of the yokan with a toothpick it peels off. This is fun and satisfying !
The yokan is refreshing and have a sweet watermelon flavour.
The Watermelon soda is watermelon flavoured, however it does not contains any watermelon juice in it.
That's why the name of the product is not "Densuke Watermelon" but "Densuke's Watermelon Soda".
At “Toma’s produce hall: Densuke san no ie” in the Toma Roadside Station, you can also buy Toma and its surrounding areas' other specialities and produces. In summer, we can buy here a watermelon flavoured soft serve ice cream which is a popular and well-liked delicacy. The Toma Roadside Station is a great place to stop by when driving on the Route 39.
Translated from Tora’s article.