By Cathy Cawood
Yamanashi is known by locals as the kingdom of fruits. And for good reason! From sweet grapes in the summer, to juicy peaches in autumn, and crimson strawberries in winter, there is no shortage of options to buy and pick fruits in this area all year round. Out of all these places though, Nakajima Park stands out. Nestled right in the heart of Yamanashi, this park gives people the chance to pick strawberries as early as December, even when Japan's season of strawberries officially starts in January.
I had the opportunity to come here a few weeks back, and my first impression was that I was stunned at how so many strawberries were ripe and ready for picking. The representative, Kaori Nakajima, was a lady with a personality as sweet as her strawberries, and she first gave us the rundown on how to remove strawberries from their stems. After that was done, we were brought to an area where our group could freely take and eat as much as we wanted for 30 minutes. Along the way, she explained the four varieties of strawberries that their park grows. The most common one is Akihime, oblong-shaped and good when paired with the park's complimentary milk. Following that is Benihoppe and Asukaruby, both of which are unique for their tart flavors. The last and most special one is Kaori-no, a newly created variety and famous all around Japan for its sweetness and scent, hence the name. See if you can find and try them all!
Even if the activity was just for a short time, I and my group had a lot of fun! This is definitely a recommendation for people who want to try something unique, or even just as a side-trip for people visiting the Fuji area due to its proximity. Be sure to call and make reservations ahead so you can have a guaranteed slot when you arrive.
The best way is to come by car. Alternatively, you can also take the bus from Shinjuku, get off at Chidoriko bus stop and walk north for 20 minutes.
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I entered the land of the rising sun a while back in 2011, and have been working as a salaryman ever since. Still, this doesn't mean that I don't manage to get around. My friends know me as an avid food and travel fan, and there are a couple of days, when we would just explore what Japan has to offer.And let me tell you, from a foreigner's eyes such as myself, Japan truly is beauty, and this beauty can be found even in the most uncommon of places. For people like me that only have such a short time during weekends to relax, I am here to show you that there are alternatives to the famed Kyoto or Osaka. Let me take you on a journey!