Fall-ing in love with Japan’s autumn harvests
Japan is known for its four distinct seasons—while spring is probably the most popular season amongst foreign visitors, autumn is also a season that’s hard to miss. Similar to the hundreds of thousands of visitors flocking to cherry blossom hotspots all across Japan between late March to late April annually, the same trend is seen with the fall foliage half a year later.
Autumn in Karuizawa in early November. (Image credit: Sue Lynn)
Thanks to Japan’s unique geography, the best part about autumn in Japan is that you’ll have ample time to enjoy both the mesmerising autumn colours as well as cooling weather depending on your location between late September to early December, which is almost twice as long as the transient cherry blossoms season. This also means that you’ll get to savour autumn seasonal food for twice as long, too!
Today, I’ll be introducing three seasonal harvests that are so synonymous with autumn in Japan that you’ll find them being incorporated in seasonal menus—they’re simply impossible to miss.
(Image credit: photoAC)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so why not indulge in them as much as you can when you’re in Japan? While the most popular variety known is the Fuji apple (characterised by its large form, red skin, and crispy bites), there are hundreds of varieties to be found in Japan especially if you’re in the north-eastern and eastern regions.
(Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
In fact, Aomori Prefecture (青森県 Aomori-ken) is known as the leading prefecture in apple production and is home to not just the Fuji variety but also the Mutsu, Orin, Tsugaru, Kitakurenai, Jonagold, and many others. Coming in second place is Nagano Prefecture (長野県 Nagano-ken), which boasts its own sweet and crunchy varieties like Shinano Sweet and Shinano Gold.
The best months to enjoy these apples are between late September and early December, so whether you like them sweet or sour, red, orange, or green, you’re sure to find your favourite variety during these months. Apples are probably the most common seasonal item you’ll find incorporated in menus and product lists, so there’s no better way than to try them all! The most popular apple products you’ll find in autumn are apple-flavoured soft serve, apple jam, apple cider, and apple chips. In particular, apple chips are extremely popular as souvenirs visiting Aomori and Nagano as they’re not just tasty, but also healthy snacks suitable for all ages.
Toremaru Aomori Apple Chips. (Image credit: East Japan Railway Company)
While there are plenty around, for starters you can try Toremaru Aomori Apple Chips (とれまる青森りんごチップス)! They’re just about the healthier snacks you can find as they’re air-fried and made without any unnecessary additives, allowing you to taste the natural ingredients as much as possible. This irresistible snack is perfect for a teatime break, and all it takes is one bite for you to fall in love with these yummy chips and experience both the sweetness and sour richness of Aomori apples.
(Image credit: photoAC)
Grapes are probably not the first fruit that comes to mind when we think of Japan, but did you know that there are just about as many varieties of grapes in Japan as there are in anywhere else in the world? Varieties such as Shine Muscat, Kyoho, Delaware, and Pione are household names of Japanese grapes that are grown and cultivated all throughout Japan, with the more popular varieties available in the Yamagata, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Wakayama prefectures.
As you might have heard of the premium Ruby Roman grapes that were auctioned off for over ¥1.3 million in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japanese grapes have been notoriously known to be pretty pricey. But don’t let that price point stop you—there are plenty of reasonably-priced grapes for you to try during its harvest season between late summer in August through late autumn in December.
Grape-picking is a popular activity that local Japanese look forward to during the grape harvesting season. And if you’re not into getting your hands dirty, many fruit farms also offer all-you-can-eat (食べ放題 tabehōdai) options for you to gobble down as many grapes as you can (within a time limit, of course). Some other products of Japanese grapes that you can find during autumn are grapes confectioneries, soft serve, wine, and of course, grape juice.
(Image credit: Yamagata Foods)
To get the fullest taste of Japanese grapes while quenching your thirst, look no further than Sun & Liv’s Yamagata Daihyo Red Grape Juice. Packed in a fun-sized can, this grape juice is a unique blend of all of our favourite varieties of dark grapes cultivated in Yamagata Prefecture, bringing out the best properties of each variety—Delaware’s rich sweetness, Berry A’s moderate acidity, and Black Grapes’s great juiciness. With the grapes’ sweetness accented by their own sourness, this 100% straight fruit juice offers a refreshing outlook while maintaining the original taste, aroma, and colour of Yamagata’s grapes.
3. Sweet potatoes
(Image credit: photoAC)
Enough of fruits now, let’s turn our attention to our third and final autumn harvest that you simply shouldn’t miss in Japan: sweet potatoes. Known as satsuma-imo (さつまいも), origins of the Japanese sweet potatoes can be traced back to early 17th century where it was first introduced in the Satsuma Province (present-day Kagoshima). Today, the majority of the sweet potatoes found in Japan are cultivated in Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県 Saitama-ken) and in Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県 Ibaraki-ken).
Popular varieties grown in these two prefecture include the Beni Haruka, Silk Sweet, Kintoki, and Beni Azuma, and during its harvest season in mid-September to mid-November, several sweet potato farms are open to the public where visitors can dig and pick their very own sweet potatoes!
You might not have figured this, but Japanese sweet potatoes are made not just into chips, they’re also used in beer and shochu (焼酎 shōchū). While shochu is usually made from the fermentation of rice, it occasionally uses sweet potatoes in its process. In Saitama, famous craft beer Coedo Brewery sells “Beniaka”, which is brewed using Kintoki sweet potatoes. And of course, a specialty that you mustn’t miss out on is yaki-imo, roasted sweet potatoes that will keep you warm on an autumn’s night.
(Image credit: East Japan Railway Company)
Got a case of the munchies? Help yourself to Toremaru Ibaraki Sweet Potato Chips (とれまる茨城さつまいもチップス). These generously-sliced chips are made of Ibaraki Prefecture’s best sweet potato harvests, and you’ll be able to taste the subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes filling your mouth as you chew. These sweet potato chips are also made additive-free, so you get to enjoy the original flavour of the natural ingredients as much as possible.
An autumn picnic
(Image credit: JR Times / Julia)
Can’t travel to Japan but don’t want to miss out on the fun that autumn brings? Here’s a sweet picnic deal that you’ll “fall” in love with. For a limited time only, enjoy nomono’s Autumn Picnic Bundle at only $19! With a packet of Toremaru Aomori Apple Chips, a packet of Toremaru Ibaraki Sweet Potato Chips, and two cans of Sun & Liv’s Yamagata Daihyo Red Grape Juice, this is the perfect set of snacks to enjoy with a friend.
Until 31 October 2020, you can get nomono’s Autumn Picnic Bundle at these places:
- Nomono’s Retail Store @ JW360º
- Nomono’s online shop @ Shopee
- Retail Corner @ JAPAN RAIL CAFE
If you’d like to find out more about this awesome autumn deal, as well as to learn more about the three products shared today, join JAPAN RAIL CAFE’s webinar #StayAtホーム: An Awe-tumn Trip (Railway Day Edition) on 14 October where we will also be sharing about the various autumn activities and seasonal goodies you can enjoy on the Hokuriku Arch Pass. Plus, you might even win nomono’s Autumn Picnic Bundle for yourself!
Autumn is waiting for you in Japan!
This article is written in collaboration with nomono and JW360º.
Header image credit: JR Times / Julia