Strawberries are eaten in many countries around the world, but Japan is the world’s largest consumer of strawberries eaten “raw”.
In other countries, strawberries are mainly used as ingredients for jams and sweets, taking advantage of their acidity and hard texture. Japanese strawberries, however, are mostly eaten “raw” due to their low acidity, large size, sweetness, and juicy texture.
There are about 300 varieties of Japanese strawberries, and some say that more than half of the world’s strawberry varieties come from Japan.
In this article, I will introduce the history of sweet and juicy Japanese strawberries, the secret to their sweetness, representative and new varieties, strawberry picking information, and more.
- When did strawberries first become available in Japan?
- Strawberries are a "spring-season vegetable"?!
- Top 10 Strawberry Production Areas in Japan
- Tochigi Strawberries
- Five representative strawberry varieties
- Five new high-end strawberry varieties
- Strawberry picking spots introduced in numerous media
When did strawberries first become available in Japan?
It is said that strawberries were first eaten in Japan in the 1830s, at the end of the Edo period.
Strawberries were brought to Japan by Dutch ships and were called “Dutch strawberries” at that time.
Later, as agriculture was modernized during the Meiji period (1868-1912), various seeds and seedlings were introduced from Europe and the United States, and around 1900, cultivation using foreign varieties spread.
Strawberries are a “spring-season vegetable”?!
Until the 1960s, strawberries were mostly grown outdoors, without the use of plastic greenhouses or other facilities, so the harvest season was from April to June, and at that time it was common to say that strawberries were in season from spring to early summer.
Even in the world of haiku, “strawberry” is considered a seasonal word for summer.
Later, technology was developed to artificially create a spring environment in greenhouses so that high quality strawberries could be harvested in winter season for Christmas, when the demand for strawberries explodes.
Various efforts have been made to control the temperature and humidity in greenhouses, to adjust the optimum hours of sunlight and the amount of water, and to manually pollinate the strawberries in order to grow large and juicy ones.
As a result, today, we can enjoy delicious strawberries for a long period of time, so that it can be said that “the strawberry season is from winter to early summer.
Thus, Japanese strawberries are grown in greenhouses, carefully cared for and harvested by hand, and their quality is guaranteed and highly valued.
Strawberries are not a fruit but a vegetable.
In the statistical survey of crops conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, strawberries are classified as a vegetable, not a fruit.
However, they are also called “fruity vegetables” because they are actually eaten in the same way as fruits.
Top 10 Strawberry Production Areas in Japan
With the progress of strawberry cultivation technology, strawberries are now harvested in many prefectures.
In FY2020, the national strawberry harvest volume was 159,000 tons.
The ranking of harvest volume is as follows (Side-scrollable)
|Ranking||Prefectures||production volume||Share||Planted area|
In past data, the top three prefectures have remained unchanged, with Tochigi in first place, Fukuoka in second, and Kumamoto in third.
Nagasaki and Shizuoka are competing for the fourth and fifth places, depending on the year, and the harvest volume by these five prefectures becomes about 50% of the nation’s total harvest volume.
Tochigi Prefecture is rich in nature, with the fertile Kanto Plain stretching from the central to southern parts of the prefecture and clean water flowing from Nikko and Nasu.
In addition to this climate, the long hours of sunlight in winter and the large temperature difference between day and night are ideal for strawberry cultivation.
The strawberries are grown in plastic greenhouses that take full advantage of the sun’s rays, and are allowed to ripen slowly while maintaining a low temperature, resulting in sweet and delicious strawberries.
Tochigi Prefecture has been the largest producer of strawberries in Japan since 1968, and in 2017 it became the largest producer of strawberries in Japan for 50 consecutive years, and continues to remain unshakable.
In order to improve the brand value of Tochigi Prefecture and further develop the prefecture’s strawberry production, January 15 of every year has been set as “Strawberry Kingdom, Tochigi Day“.
Five representative strawberry varieties
I selected five representative Japanese strawberry varieties that are large, sweet, juicy, and produced in large quantities.
Tochiotome is the No. 1 strawberry variety in Japan, and has been the largest strawberry producer in Tochigi Prefecture for more than half a century.
It has a reputation for its stable taste and is grown not only in Tochigi Prefecture, but also in many parts of Japan.
Although slightly smaller than the large-grain varieties that have been popular in recent years, it has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, and its juicy juice overflows when put in the mouth.
The fruit’s firmness and long shelf life are also reasons why it has been loved for many years.
Amaou is an original variety from Fukuoka Prefecture, named after the first letters of the words “Amai (sweet),” “Marui (round),” “Ookii (big),” and “Umai (good)”.
Amaou has about twice the volume of a typical strawberry, and its large size is also a feature of this variety, as it has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s heaviest strawberry.
Its cute round shape and rich flavor are also secrets of its popularity.
Yuubeni is a remarkable variety that has been rapidly increasing its production in Kumamoto Prefecture since its birth in 2015.
It is named after “Yuu,” the phonetic reading of Kumamoto’s “bear” and “Beni” from the strawberry’s red color.
The elegant and mellow aroma inherited from the parent variety “Kaorino” is the charm of “Yuubeni”.
It is beautiful to look at, and when you take a bite, its lush juice fills your mouth.
The acidity is a bit low, but the sweetness of the strawberry is enhanced by the low acidity.
Benihoppe is an original variety from Shizuoka Prefecture.
The name “Benihoppe” comes from the fact that not only the peel but also the inside of the flesh turns bright red, and that it is so tasty that one’s cheeks fall off.
It is characterized by its rich sweetness combined with a moderate acidity.
Not only can the original sweet and sour taste of strawberries be enjoyed, but the large size makes each strawberry very satisfying, making it an excellent product that has many strong fans.
Originally developed in Aichi Prefecture, Yumenoka is now widely produced in Nagasaki Prefecture as a successor to Sachinoka, and is the main variety in Nagasaki Prefecture.
It has a beautiful conical silhouette, and its well-balanced shape looks great on cakes and other dishes.
The sweetness and refreshing aftertaste will make you want to eat as many as you can.
Named with the wish that “everyone’s dreams will come true,” this variety is also popular during the exam season.
Five new high-end strawberry varieties
Even now, breeding is being continued throughout Japan, and unique new varieties of strawberries are being created one after another, so here I introduce five new varieties of premium strawberries.
Skyberry is a high-end strawberry permitted for cultivation only in Tochigi Prefecture.
It is a large, beautiful, and delicious three-star strawberry with a juicy, high-quality flavor.
They are the perfect “special day” strawberry to reward yourself or to give as a gift to a loved one.
The shipping destinations are limited to four markets (Tokyo, Yokohama, Sendai, and Morioka), and they are hard to find, making them a highly prized variety.
The most distinctive feature of the Skyberry is its size. While normal strawberries weigh about 20 grams, the Skyberryis large, weighing more than 25 grams, and has a beautiful conical shape.
They are juicy and have a good balance of sweetness and acidity, making them an easy-to-eat, mild-tasting strawberry.
Yayoi Hime (Gunma)
Yayoi Hime is an original variety from Gunma Prefecture, created by combining “Tonehoppe” bred in Gunma Prefecture, and “Tochiotome” bred in Tochigi Prefecture.
It is characterized by an elegant orange-red color not found in other strawberries, large, firm flesh, and an excellent balance of sweetness and acidity.
As its name suggests, another major selling point of this variety is its ability to maintain stable quality even after March (Yayoi period), when the quality of other varieties tends to decline.
Bijinhime is a strawberry developed in 2009 by crossing the Gifu Prefecture strawberry variety “Nohime” with a certain variety.
Bijinhime is said to be a miracle strawberry with a perfect combination of size, sweetness, color, luster, and shape, and is sold at department stores in Tokyo for as little as 1,000 yen per strawberry.
While the average size of a regular strawberry is 20 grams, the average size of Bijinhime is 40 grams, more than twice as large.
The largest ones can weigh more than 100 grams.
Although large strawberries have an image of being large, Bijinhime has a strong sweetness and flavor. The sugar content of ordinary strawberries is around 10 degrees, but Bijinhime has a sugar content of 13 to 16 degrees.
Kotoka is Nara Prefecture’s original strawberry variety.
Nara Prefecture has an original variety called “Asuka Ruby,” and Kotoka is a new variety created 10 years after AsukaRuby.
It is characterized by the larger size of each strawberry than normal strawberries, and the large ones are up to 5L size.
The sugar content of Kotoka is 15 degrees, about 5 degrees higher than the average, and it has a sweet, mellow aroma and a firm texture.
It has a very beautiful shape, and the cut is sweet and beautiful, making it one of the most popular high-end strawberries in the future.
Tenshi no Mi (Saga)
Tenshi-no-Mi is produced at only five farms in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, and is also called “phantom strawberry” due to its rarity.
The skin is peachy white, and each large, high-end strawberry weighs an average of 60 grams.
Tenshi-no-Mi is a white strawberry because anthocyanins are not easily synthesized even when exposed to light for genetic reasons.
Tenshi-no-Mi is not only white in appearance, but also has a distinctive taste.
It has a good balance of sweetness and acidity, and has a melon-like flavor even though it is a strawberry.
Strawberry picking spots introduced in numerous media
Slow Life Resort Ichigo-no-Sato offers year-round strawberry and peach picking and various other events, and has been introduced in numerous media outlets.
Adress: 408 Okawashima, Oyama, Tochigi
It is a tourist farm visited by 100,000 people every year for strawberry picking.
Depending on the season, visitors can enjoy picking strawberries, cherries, grapes, blueberries, peaches, and other fruits, as well as cake and jam making classes and harvest experience.
There is also a direct sales store, a restaurant, and a cafe.
Strawberry picking is by reservation only.
Depending on the growing conditions, it may not be possible to accept reservations on the day of picking, so please inquire in advance.
Phone number: 0285-33-1070 (9:00-17:00)
At Slow Life Resort Ichigo-no-Sato, you can pick all-you-can-eat high-end strawberries such as Sky Berry and TochiaiStrawberry for 40 minutes, but please note that you cannot compare them with each other.
Prices until April 9 (Sun.) (Side-scrollable)
Student ~ Adult
|Weekend and Holiday||Local payment
Price from April 10 (Mon.) to May 7 (Sun.) (Side-scrollable)
Student ~ Adult
|Weekend and Holiday||Local payment
Please check the official HP of Slow Life Resort Ichigo-no-Sato.
How was it?
Japanese strawberries are very popular among both children and adults.
Thanks to advances in cultivation technology and many years of breeding, Japanese strawberries have five outstanding characteristics (size, sweetness, color, luster, and shape) not found in strawberries from other countries.
Even now, breed improvements are being made throughout Japan, and unique new varieties are being born one after another.
In terms of nutrition, strawberries are rich in vitamin C, and contain about twice compared with oranges and grapefruits.
They also contain high amounts of folic acid, a B vitamin.
They are also rich in anthocyanin, a type of polyphenol, which improves the function of the eyes and prevents eyestrain.
Since strawberries were cultivated outdoors from ancient times, their season was from spring to early summer, but today, when plastic greenhouse cultivation has become the mainstream, they are harvested from December to May.
Many farms offer strawberry picking until Golden Week, so why not start planning your trip now?