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- The Meddler
All-you-can-eat 5-7 varieties of strawberry
Strawberry picking is gaining momentum and has muscled its way into one of Japan’s essential seasonal activities, alongside cherry blossom viewing, and autumnal foliage watching. However, rather than being a passive pastime, it’s a great family activity, doesn’t require a lot of planning and feeds the rabble to boot.
Japan’s strawberries are superb! You only have to wander into your local supermarket to see the box fresh perfect strawberries arranged like the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Sheer, luscious perfection from another world with prices to match. But why pay exorbitant prices for the privilege when just over an hour away you can be picking your own in Chiba’s strawberry fields, home to the world’s best berries?
More often than not, back in the home country, one takes a punnet or two and spends a few hours meandering around the open fields, choosing the finest specimens from a motley bunch of samplings, occasionally sneaking the odd sample out of sight of the farmer, ‘Just to test, you understand’. Without washing and wary of insects, pesticides and dirt, we’d only eat the odd berry whilst on the go, right? One would imagine this to be the actions of pickers the world over, right? Wrong! Japan likes to do things differently.
Japan specialises in the “Ichigo-Tabehoudai.” While translations differ from “all-you-can-eat strawberries” to “stuff yourself senseless with strawberries.” This is basically a no-holds-barred, 30-minute period to devour as many of the succulent beauties as humanly possible. Thirthy minutes to ravage the beautifully cultivated strawberry plants, so primed with a flimsy plastic container. Ready, set, go. Choose your lane and start gobbling.
Everyone is looking for that strawberry El Dorado, that untouched row of plants where the fruit has just that second ripened; it makes the ‘fast pass dash’ at Disneyland seem like child’s play. These pickers are serious and time means strawberries-it’s that contagious! Watch the parents stroll in, then within minutes they are reduced to salivating wrecks, running from lane to lane in search of their scarlet bounty.
So after all that stuffing, what’s the damage? Strawberries are healthy, no doubt there. Eight medium sized strawberries contain the same amount of vitamin C as an orange. Of course gluttony can get the better of us and the initial 10 minute spurt can induce other kinds of spurts, so go lightly and keep an eye on members of their crew whose eyes are bigger than their tummies. At the end of your 30 minutes, you have to vacate the premises. It’s a strawberry eat strawberry world out there and once your time is up, out you must go!
While the smaller farms only offer the frenzied greenhouse picking, style the larger centres usually offer the outside field picking option as well; an altogether more civilised affair, more reminiscent of back home. No loafers or high heels here, take your boots and spend as long as you want in the fields. Strawberry folk are happy folk; in many ancient cultures strawberries were believed to bring happiness and are still thought of as “happy fruit.” So spread a bit of that happiness, indulge your family with the great taste of strawberry and jam those berries in while you have the chance.
Strawberry facts to impress the kids on the way to the fields
1. Strawberries are a member of the rose family.
2. “Strawberry” is the second most popular natural flavour, second only to “chocolate.”
3. Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium.
4. The average strawberry has 200 seeds.
5. Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.
We stuffed ourselves silly at Kawatsura Strawberry farm, Sammu City, Chiba
Season: Open between mid-December and early May.
Hours: Weekday : 10AM – 3:30PM and weekends and holidays from 8:30AM until the strawberries run out.
Cost: 30 minute “Ichigo-Tabehoudai” (All-you-can-eat) Adult (over 7 years) ¥1,500,
Child(4-6 years old ) ¥1,100, Child (under 3 years) ¥500. (Rates from March 1 – 31, 2017)
Adult (over 7 years old) ¥1,100, Child (under 4-6 years old) ¥700, Child (under 3 years) ¥300 (April 1 to early May)
Access: By car – it takes approximately 90 min from the Tokyo metropolitan area when using the highways.
By train – it takes an hour and 10 minutes from Tokyo station using the “Shiosai” express train.