I am a Japanese woman in my twenties, and I love to travel in Japan and overseas. I visit all sorts of places. I wonder, what do you all look forward to when going on vacation? Beautiful landscapes, perhaps, or going to places that you have never seen before, shopping at your destination, or engaging with the local people. For me, the thing I anticipate most is enjoying delicious seasonal foods. For example, I love to taste foods that can only be enjoyed at certain times of the year, as these make me feel that the particular season has really arrived.
So a friend and I decided to go on a bus tour with a travel company called Club Tourism. The bus was full, and our destination was Shizuoka Prefecture. Although Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for Mt. Fuji and the region's tea production, from December through to April there is another aspect to the area that should not be forgotten. Strawberries! That's right – strawberry picking bus tours, where you can pick your own strawberries and eat them there and then!
Efficiently traveling around various sightseeing spots
In Japan, strawberries are consistently one of the most popular fruits with people of all ages, regardless of gender. I go strawberry picking with my family and friends on an annual basis, and for the past few years we have been using bus tours. These tours are more efficient than using our own cars for travel around various sightseeing spots, and above all they are very reasonably priced. There are many other merits, too, including the ability to take a nap while on the road if you find yourself getting tired.
On the tour that forms the basis of this report, our first stop was Izu Nagaoka in Shizuoka Prefecture. My pulse started racing as we drew close to our destination and lots of plastic greenhouses came into view. When the bus parked in front of the designated plastic greenhouse, we were greeted by the smiling faces of man and woman from the plantation. No matter which plantation you visit, the producers are always smiling and are clearly proud of the fruits they have cultivated. The strawberries here taste even more delicious when you think about the happiness of the cultivators.
Sweet smells inside the plastic greenhouse
To begin with, we stand in front of the plastic greenhouse as the people from the plantation tell us about the varieties of strawberry and the methods of strawberry picking. Apparently there are around 100 types of strawberry, each varying in flavor and size. Next, we each receive two plastic containers – one of the containers is filled with condensed milk and the other is empty, to hold the stems from strawberries after they have been eaten.
We then enter the plastic greenhouse. It's warmer in here than it is outside, and sweet smells fill the air. Strawberries are cultivated in rows, and between these rows are walkways. At first I was at a loss as to which strawberries to pick, but I remembered the plantation workers' advice and decided to aim for the ripened red fruits.
When picking strawberries, it is important not to pull with too much force, as that may damage the seedlings or uproot the plants, making it difficult to produce delicious strawberries the following year. The trick is to gently hold the fruit and lightly bend the stem part to one side. Even small children were able to pick the strawberries properly thanks to the explanation we received before entering the plastic greenhouse.
Many participants from overseas
I enjoy eating the first strawberry as it is, without dipping it in the condensed milk. Its combination of sweetness and sourness fill my palate, making me very happy! I carry on looking for the tastiest fruits, eating a second strawberry, then a third, then a fourth... One of the joys of strawberry picking is that you can select the individual fruits that catch your eye. I found some strawberries that were as big as a child's fist and others that were heart-shaped, though of course they disappeared from view after I had eaten them! Fruits whose form was not particularly attractive but were bright red in color turned out to be very sweet. Strawberry picking time was about 30 minutes. When the tour guide on the bus told us that we would have about 30 minutes for strawberry picking, everyone commented that we would need more time, but actually 30 minutes is long enough for most people to have their fill. I must have eaten around 30 strawberries while picking.
Visitors from overseas also took part in this tour, and the tour guide gave detailed explanations of strawberry picking methods in English and in Chinese. While the plantation workers were not able to communicate in other languages, they did their best to recommend strawberries by gesturing. Some of the visitors from overseas ate 50 strawberries, so clearly the popularity of strawberries is universal! When I mustered up the courage to speak some English, the visitors smiled and told me that “Japanese strawberries are very sweet and delicious” – even though I had nothing to do with their cultivation, I couldn't help but feel some pride as a Japanese person. I was glad to see people from other countries visiting my country and taking so many photos while evidently having a great time!
Enjoyed to the full by families and couples alike!
As I mentioned earlier, this tour was not solely about strawberry picking. Before we even reached the plastic greenhouse, our first destination was a winery. We were able to sample lots of different types of wine, and I found a particularly delicious wine that I liked. I also bought some wine as a souvenir, which I look forward to drinking at my leisure at home.
After the strawberry picking activity, we headed to Suruga Bay and enjoyed some cruising. The weather was perfect, and there was a lot of excitement on the deck as seagulls followed the boat. Although it was a bit chilly, the clear winter skies provided a beautiful setting for our view of Mt. Fuji, and I was able to take lots of excellent photographs.
This day trip flew by, but the full schedule made for a very satisfying day out. We were able to enjoy Shizuoka Prefecture to the full, eating our fill of sweet in-season strawberries as well as viewing the famous Mt. Fuji while cruising along Suruga Bay. There was even a raffle on the bus during the return journey, with a top prize of a special strawberry pack. Unfortunately my number didn't come up, but the tour guide kindly handed out consolation prizes of strawberry jam to everyone on-board! I can heartily recommend this strawberry picking bus tour to families, couples, and even to people who are visiting Japan from other countries!
Tour details can be found here .