Fruit Picking in Yamaguchi
As the sweltering summer heat begins to wane, hopefully, at the beginning of September, an activity known as kudamono gari in Japan becomes available to the public. Kudamono gari is when local farmers open their orchards to the public to pick and take home their fruits. Some places even allow you to eat all that you can pick while you are within the orchard. For a minimal price, you will truly be able to enjoy the “fruits” of your labor. Yamaguchi has more than enough options for farms where you can pick a variety of fruits from nashi, a Japanese pear, to grapes, and strawberries at varying times of the year. This season—from August to October—is peak season for nashi and grapes.
Nashi is often defined to foreigners as something between a pear and an apple. Its shape resembles an apple, but once you bite into it, its taste is closer to that of a pear； so when describing nashi, “Japanese pear” may be the most fitting description of this sumptuous fruit. Nashi gari, the act of picking nashi, can be enjoyed at a number of spots in Yamaguchi.
Shuho pears are particularly known for their sweet and sugary taste. This is attributed to a number of factors including； the water drainage from Akiyoshido Plateau, the variance in temperature between day and night and the characteristics of the soil which benefits from the compost and organic matter of the grassy plains of the plateau. The orchards located at the foot of the Akiyoshido Plateau can also make for a full day’s outing in the Shuho area. The best time is between the end of August and the end of September.
For more information contact the Shuho Nashi Sales and Production Association at 0837-65-2221. Adults are 1,000 yen, elementary school students are 800 yen and kindergarteners are 600 yen.
Other orchards where you can experience nashi gari include；
Hohoku Pia Farm in Shimonoseki city. The entrance fee is 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for elementary school students and younger. You can eat all the nashi that you want within the orchard. For every kilogram of nashi brought home, the fee is 300 to 600 yen. The orchard is open from 8:00 until 18:00. Contact 083-782-1607 for more information.
Nakahara Orchard is also located in Shimonoseki and does not have an entrance fee. All the nashi that you pick can be taken home at a cost of 2,000 yen per basket. Each basket is 3.5 kilograms. At the rest area, you can enjoy samplings of the pears as well as buy some nashi to send to friends in different prefectures. However, you cannot eat the nashi that you pick within the orchard. The orchard opens around August 10 and will stay open until the middle of October from 9:00 until 17:00. The last time to enter the orchard to pick nashi is at 16:00. For more information, contact 083-782-1757.
For those who wish to kill two birds with one stone, Sugane Fruit Land in Shunan City offers a chance to pick not just nashi but grapes as well. When you envision this fruit land, you may think of one large orchard but in reality, it is more of a fruit lane, with over 10 orchard plots lining the road, all full of fresh fruit waiting to be picked and eaten! For nashi picking, the entrance fee is 1,050 yen while the fee for picking grapes depends on the weight of the amount you pick. The grapes hang in paper bags and once you take a peek inside to see how ripe they are, the grapes can be snipped with scissors to take home. The secret to keeping the grapes fresh for as long as possible is to cut them with as long of a stem as possible.
During the peak season, as many as 50,000 visitors, including many families, come from as far as Hiroshima to pick the nashi and grapes. Peak season is from the beginning of August until the beginning of October. For more information contact the Sugane Grape and Nashi Production Association at 083-486-2000.
Yamaguchi has an abundance of other orchards not listed here as well. There’s a good chance one may exist closer to your area than you think. Picking your own fruit may not be what comes to mind when you picture a weekend afternoon, but venturing out to the orchards to bring home a bag full of ripe and sumptuous fruit—or eating to your heart’s content—is both a fulfilling and filling experience!