11. Jul 2022 | Nature

Hokkaido Trivia – Where Did the Cherries Come From?

I went cherry picking today at a local orchard. 

You might be surprised that this cold snowy northern region grows plenty of fruits, but fruits picking is one of the popular outdoor activities among the locals.  Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, hascup, grapes and apples to name a few. 

In the case of cherries, it’s true that Yamagata prefecture down in Honshu (mainland) is most famous for Japanese cherries (70% of national yield).  Their Sato Nishiki, the most popular variety, is grown with so much care and attention that it’s referred to as Edible Rubies (they cost like rubies, too!). 

Although Yamagata won the fame as the cherry prefecture, cherry originally started its cultivation in Hokkaido.  They were first introduced to Nanae in southern Hokkaido by a Prussian trader Reinhart Gaertner in 1868, who introduced western farming to Japan.  Not only for cherries and some other fruits, Hokkaido was the gateway to Japan from the west for many crops and vegetables as well as westernized agricultural tools that are common today. 

Cherries were later introduced to various parts of Japan, but they only survived in Hokkaido and some parts of Tohoku area (northern mainland) where there are few rain damages from early summer rainy seasons and autumn typhoons. 

Hokkaido’s cherries are much less costly.  All you can eat costs around 700 yen per person, around 100 yen per 100g if you want to bring back.  Some of the orchards are located in beautiful landscapes.  Fruits picking can be a fun activity for kids and adults!