Sakuragawa City in Ibaraki prefecture is famous for strawberries. It borders Tochigi prefecture, which is the pinnacle of strawberries in Japan!
On an unseasonably cold late April morning, we piled into the van for the land of strawberries. After an hour of twisting, skinny, rural roads past rice fields and through towns, the landscape changed to thick strands of trees directly beside the road. The heavy rain continued to drench the vehicle as we turned into a waterlogged gravel parking lot.
The door slid open and every corner filled with cold. Umbrellas were thrown around and we puddle-jumped to the wooden boards laid down in front of the main office. Inside the low, basic structure, we danced around from foot to foot to keep warm.
Hitoshi’s mom treated us to a thirty-minute slot and returned with disposable plastic drinking cups for each of us. ?? I’d never been to a u-pick farm anywhere and assumed we would be picking berries to take home. After the confusion of wondering why I had been given such a small “bucket” and then wishing I hadn’t eaten an enormous breakfast, I was ready to eat, eat, eat!
The rules were simple. Don’t bug the bees. Don’t trample the bushes. Eat what you pick and no hiding berries in your pockets. Use the cup for your pits. Watch the clock! Pretend your fingers are scissors to pick the berries.
We synchronized our watches, lined up for a photo in our dash away stance and were off!
Sort of. Following hallways out of the building, exiting back into the rain, navigating boardwalks to avoid the mud, and finding our assigned greenhouse put us closer to a slug’s pace.
Opening the door brought us into a long, plastic-walled bi-ni-ru ha-u-su or vinyl house. Eight rows of berry plants stretched forward. In between were sloped paths barely wide enough for feet to stand side by side.
It was anticlimactic after our clocked send off to inch down a cramped aisle, bending over and pulling back leaves to discover plump berries. We were too busy stuffing our faces to talk and even the bees seemed half-asleep. The atmosphere was unexpectedly serene.
Thirty minutes did not seem like long but when this time is only for eating strawberries, it’s plenty. I was full after about ten minutes but the berries were so juicy, so big, so red, so delicious that it was impossible to avoid having another and another.
With our fingers stained pink and frozen and our time almost up, we called it a day and waddled back to the main kiosk.
The farm we went to is open for strawberry picking from February to May Golden Week. The cost varies but is around $10 per person. Melons are on offer from May to June and September to October. I’m pretty sure you aren’t given a spoon!
The farm doesn’t have a web site and Japanese would be required to ask questions. If you would like the contact information, let us know! There are more farms in the area, as well.
- Wear comfortable clothing and dress for the weather. The greenhouse was not heated!
- Flat shoes that can get dirty are best.
- White is not the best color when combined with strawberries. See my white jacket? Not smart.
- Don’t eat a morsel before you go!
Have you been strawberry hunting in Japan or another country? How about another fruit or vegetable?