Strawberries in Japan

Sweet, fragrant and crazy expensive

Strawberries, arguably the most successful Western import in Japan, certainly come with a price. No fruit is dearer, in both senses of the word, in contemporary Japan than the strawberry.

Strawberries are arguably the most successful Western import in Japan, first becoming common in the early Showa Era (1926-89). In less than a century, have conquered the sweet tooth of the Land of the Rising Sun.

In the varieties of the fruit and the rapture they evoke, strawberries in Japan rival mangoes in India. There were 294 varieties registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at the end of 2018. The Tochi Otome (Tochi Maiden) for example, is a relatively small, sweet and fragrant variety, while the Amaou (Sweet King) from Fukouka prefecture boasts of enormous berries, four to five times the average size. The most unique are the disconcertingly white strawberries of Yamanashi prefecture, called Hatsukoi no Kaori (the Scent of First Love). These albino strawberries were first introduced to the market in 2006, following 10 years of research and development. A box of 12 sells in supermarkets for about 1,600 Yen ($14.5).

The prices only get more eye-watering. The most expensive of Mr. Murata’s crop goes for a staggering 7,000 yen ($63) for a dozen. But this is cheap compared to the Bijin-hime (Beautiful Princess) from the Okuda farm in Gifu prefecture, where a single strawberry can cost 50,000 yen ($448). Some of these weigh over 100 g and only about 500 are produced every year. explains how fruit in general, not just strawberries, is notoriously expensive in Japan. Speciality melons and grapes, for example, can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. These are given as presents in lieu of luxury chocolates or quality champagne; their high price conveys the status accorded to the person they are being gifted to.

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