Sorry I haven’t updated in a while! It’s been busy to say the least! So much as been happening lately, between parties, meeting old friends, work, and the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (yesterday), I haven’t had much time for myself lately. But I did manage to take some time out a few weeks ago to go on a Hato Bus tour “Hunting for cherries”.
One of the things I love (and hate) about Japan is the difference in the seasons. And one thing that changes with the seasons is the fruit that is available. For example, in winter I live on mikan. But in June, my absolute favourite fruit becomes available – the Japanese Cherry. There are a few varieties of Japanese Cherries, and, in general, they are pinker and lighter in color than most cherries available in Australia, and are also much sweeter, although there are some slightly sour varieties.
A couple of prefectures in Japan are famous for their cherries, namely Yamagata and Yamanashi. Having tasted both, I highly recommend Yamagata cherries, but at about 600 or 700 yen for 200g, they are quite expensive. Another option to get your fill is to go to a farm that offers an ‘all you can eat, pick them yourself’ deal. Usually you are able to walk around an orchard for about 30 or 40 minutes, and pick (or ‘hunt for’) as many cherries as you like to eat right there for about 1000 to 2000 yen. And trust me, you can eat a lot in that time… However, if you want to take some home you have to buy them separately.
As I don’t have a car, the easiest way for me to do this was to go on a tour. My friend and I went on a Hato bus tour, that not only included cherry picking, but also a visit to Mt Fuji, a buffet lunch, and a brief stop at a Japanese sweets factory called Kikyoya. The cost was about 9,500 yen, but it really was worth it as it was a full day – almost 13 hours!
We were really lucky with Mt Fuji, because despite being June and cloudy we were able to see the whole mountain. Actually, when I booked the tour, I didn’t check what the extra activities apart from lunch and cherry picking were, so I wasn’t prepared for this stop. The 5th station is about 2300m above sea level so it’s much cooler. On that day it was 10 deg C and raining, and even though I had bought an umbrella, I neglected to bring a jacket.
After that it was on to lunch at the Fuji View Hotel. It’s owned by a fairly famous hotel chain, and actually had John Lennon stay there once, but their lunch buffet was pretty standard. There was one thing on the menu that is a Yamanashi original dish – Houtou. Basically a miso soup with flat udon noodles and a pumpkin flavor. It was really yummy, and I’m looking forward to trying to make it myself once it gets cooler again.
Next it was off to the Japanese sweets factory, where we were taught how to wrap Shingen-mochi. Kikyoya is also the home of a very impressive display of sugar flowers, animals and trees. There were so many different displays that I’ll be doing a separate photo!spam post later this week. But here’s a sneak peek…
And lastly, the cherry picking. Normally I’m actually quite nervous climbing up ladders, but apparently when there are cherries at the top I have no problems. On top of stuffing my self stupid at the cherry orchard, I also bought about a kilo of cherries to make sakuranbou-shu (expect a video of that adventure in about 6 months once it’s finished… stewing?).
And of course, what’s being a tourist without some shopping!
As always more photos are on flickr, and a post about the sweets with also appear later this week!