Japan has a wonderful association with fruit. While it tends to be a little expensive (at least to the eyes of foreigners used to supermarkets crammed with the stuff for next to nothing), it is revered in status: apples are grown to extraordinary sizes and famed for the ‘honey’ within, mangoes are packaged like prized antiques, and melons in excess of 10,000 JPY are given as extravagant gifts.
Another connection that the Japanese have with fruit is that they enjoy picking for pleasure. Whether with groups of friends, families or on bus tours, all year round Japanese will head to farms dotted around the country and pick fruit together. In early spring it is the beginning of the strawberry season. This is perhaps the most popular harvest period, particularly for families with children as ‘ichigo’ are just soooo kawaii!
Japan currently has the largest production and consumption of dessert strawberries in the world and there are plenty of strawberry farms around Kanto that you can visit. Most cost in the region of 1,500 JPY per adult and offer tabehoudai – eat as many as you like – for a set time period, usually about 30 minutes.
Below are just a few places that you can visit, though details are for information purposes only and Japan Info Swap does not endorse any of the places listed.
Kawatsura Strawberry Farm has been going for more than 50 years and want you to taste strawberries without condensed milk and sugar. Their season runs from December 15 to early May with the prices decreasing in increments from 2,000-1,100 JPY for adults, 1,500-700 JPY for children aged 4-6 and 500-300 JPY for under threes. Opening times on weekdays are 10:00-16:00 and weekends from 9:20 until there are no red strawberries left.
Nearest station: Naruto station is approximately 90 minutes from Tokyo station.
At Wada Farm you can pick organic strawberries from 9:00-16:00 for 1,500-1,000JPY for adults and 1,300-800JPY for ages 3-5. They also periodically provide live performances by local artists. Check their website for up to date details.
Nearest station: Keiseishisui Station is about 70 minutes from Tokyo Station
Opening on February 22 Niikura Farm is a late starter. It is not a tabehoudai operation though and strawberries are sold at 300JPY for every 300g. They are open from 10:00-16:00, except Mondays and Thrursdays when they open at 13:30. You can make a reservation by calling 080-1173-1346 between 9:30 and 16:00.
Nearest station: You can get to Seiseki-sakuragaoka in 50 minutes from Tokyo and then a 20 minute bus ride takes you to the farm.
Address: 206-0015 Tokyo, Tama, Ochikawa, 1
In the Saitama area you can find Fukai Farm where they practice natural farming. They are open from 10:00-15:30 and closed on Mondays and Thursdays. For adults of junior high school and above it costs 1500JPY, elementary school students cost 1300JPY and ages 3 and above are 900JPY for 30 minutes tabehoudai. Their website shows a calendar showing the quantity of ripe strawberries, so it is advisable to check before your trip.
Nearest station: Iwatsuki station is under an hour away from Tokyo Station, and there is a 20 minute bus ride from there.
With the strawberry plants at adult hip height you don’t need to break your back at Berry’s Farm Hasegawa. Also the strawberries are not in soil, so there is no dirt to clean as you eat. Picking hours are from 9:30 to 16:00. Elementary school students and above cost 1700-900JPY and those younger cost 1,000-700JPY for 30 minutes all-you-can-eat, though you can find a discount coupon here.
Nearest station: You can get to Gyodashi in about 90 minutes by JR or 60 minutes by Shinkansen from Tokyo.
At strawberry Hunt you can pick for 30 minutes and eat as much as you want from between 1,700 and 1,000JPY for those above elementary school age, 1,100 and 600JPY for 3 and above, with the under 3s getting free access. If you do want to enjoy strawberries with condensed milk, as many Japanese do, unfortunately they do not sell it on site, but they allow you to bring your own. You can find a 100JPY discount here.
Nearest station: You can be at Takasaka in 75 minutes from Tokyo Station, and then ait’s 20 minutes in a taxi from there.
For a full list of strawberry picking in the Kanto area, check out kajapan.org
By Mark Guthrie
Image: flickr.com "Strawberry picking 2009" by Osamu Iwasaki (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified