There are many fruits that are either endemic or mostly seen in Japan that you might want to try. You can find momo (peach), ume (plum), yuzu (citrus), and other fruits that are more common. However, there are some fruits that you probably might have never even heard of. Here are three rare and unique fruits that come from Japan and Northeast Asia and are not usually seen anywhere else. Check them out!
Akebia, or akebi in Japanese, is a vine-type pest plant which is actually prohibited from cultivation in many countries such as New Zealand. The plant’s leaves or stems are said to cause excess urination when consumed. However, the fruit of the plant, especially the seeds, can be consumed as they are sweet. It usually has a shell with a bunch of seeds inside aligned in the shape of a sausage.
Some people mistake this fruit to be a vegetable because of its unusual look. It is not available in great numbers in any season even in Japan.
One more interesting thing about akebia is that it smells like chocolate during its flowering season, and thus sometimes referred to as “chocolate vine plant.” It is also called “Akebia quinata” (Latin) or “five-leaf vine” because of the presence of five leaves in every small twig.
If you want to try this fruit, you must head to Mt. Ibuki in Gifu Prefecture where they are grown mostly in the wild. It is found only in Northeast Asian countries such as Japan and Korea but has recently spread to other countries such as the US due to commercial propagation.
Who doesn’t like red and sweet strawberries? You can find strawberry-related yogurts, puddings, cakes, drinks, desserts, etc. in every supermarket in Japan. However, there is a unique strawberry with a white color and extreme sweetness, which is grown in the garden labs of Miyoshi Agri-Tech Co. You can buy these white strawberries from selected stores in Japan such as SUN FRUITS during the months of February and March.
Japanese people have started giving these white strawberries as gifts to their loved ones on special occasions. They have named the fruit, “hatsukoi no kaori,” which actually means, “aroma of first love.” These fruits are also considered expensive as one strawberry could cost around 500 yen.
Japan is, in fact, home to various citrus fruits such as yuzu and mandarin (also known as satsuma or mikan). However, there is one special variety of citrus that is grown only on the Okinawa Islands called “shikuwasa,” which means “sour food” in the Okinawan language.
Just like lime, this fruit cannot be consumed directly and is rather used for flavoring and seasoning. The juice of the fruit is a great refreshment after a sunny beach day and you can find shikuwasa drinks at supermarkets in Okinawa.
Scientists are also confirming that shikuwasa is great for Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Okinawans are famous for their longevity because of their food habits.
If you want to visit a site cultivating this citrus fruit, you must check out the forest areas in the north of Okinawa Island, which can be reached within three hours by car from the capital city, Naha.
Have you tried these rare fruits yet? If not, try them as soon as possible! Also, springtime is a great time for fruits in Japan and you surely will be able to find the aforementioned if you put a bit of effort into finding them.