When you hear of mikan, you probably do not think of any specific place in Japan. Least of all a prefecture on the small island of Shikoku. But! Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku produces over 250,000 tons of mikan every year! Mikan are Ehime’s speciality, with everything from shirts to socks to stores being dedicated to this delicious citrus fruit.
Firstly, where is Ehime? Ehime is one of the four prefectures located on Shikoku Island just off the Honshu coast. There are several ways to get there, but the easiest way to get there from Tokyo is to fly. Several low-cost carrier airlines have direct flights from Narita to Matsuyama.
Secondly, what exactly is mikan? When I first arrived in Japan I thought they were a variety of clementine. In a way that is half right. Mikan are a variety of citrus fruit, much like a clementine or orange but are mostly grown in Japan. It is said that mikan originated from China, and were brought over through trade.
Today, there are over twenty different varieties of mikan. They range from very sweet and juicy to more tart or even bitter. Ehime Prefecture grows and produces over twelve varieties. Ehime is not all that large, so when you think about the number of mikan that come from Ehime it’s impressive!
Harehime: ‘Hime’ means princess in Japanese, and this mikan is as sweet as a fairytale. One of the sweeter varieties and low in acidity, it’s great for juicing or just eating on its own.
Kiyomi: This is the mikan you want for juicing. Like the Harehime, this mikan is incredibly sweet but is also higher in acidity. One of the juiciest varieties, this mikan makes some of the most refreshing citrus juices you will ever try.
Kawachi Bankan: More like a grapefruit in size and color, this mikan is less sweet but also very juicy. It’s a bit difficult to peel so it’s usually eaten with a spoon like a grapefruit. If you like your citrus fruits a bit more on the tart side, this is the one to try.
Haruka: this mikan looks more like a lemon, but is a bit sweeter than that. A bit more on the tangy side of sweet, this mikan is mostly produced only in Ehime.
But there are many more kinds to try!
In Matsuyama especially, mikan products are everywhere. The official mascot of Matsuyama is a mikan character called Mikyan! You can see this mascot on everything from umbrellas to socks. As far as food based mascots, Mikyan is definitely one of the cutest Japan has to offer.
Most restaurants and cafes in the area will have some kind of mikan based dish or fresh mikan juice. There is even a juice bar called 10 Factory that not only has various kinds of mikan juices, but you can get freshly made mikan ice cream in any variety you happen to choose!
When traveling around Japan and trying various foods, Ehime’s mikan are a must. While of course they can be found in Ehime, since they are famous throughout Japan you can find them almost anywhere. So next time you have a mikan in Japan, you can guess where it comes from!
4 Classic Foods You Will Learn to Love Living in Japan