Kids Web Japan

Wakayama: Arida Mikan

Arida Mikan from Wakayama Prefecture

Mouthwatering Mikan from Wakayama

Wakayama Prefecture is on the Kii Peninsula, the largest peninsula in Japan. Known for its beautiful beaches and spectacular natural landscape, its many mountains and warm, temperate climate make Wakayama the perfect place for growing mikan.

Japanese mikan are a type of satsuma or mandarin orange. Small, easy to peel and full of vitamins, they are a popular snack in Japanese households.

Mikan are usually eaten in winter in Japan, and when the season rolls round, supermarkets stock a variety of them. Arida Mikan produced in Wakayama are one of the sweetest and most popular of them all.

The Wakayama shoreline stretches nearly 650 km and features a variety of beaches, including Shirarahama.

Mountain Grown Arida Mikan

Mandarin fields spread over the mountainside

The mikan groves stretch up the steep mountainside, soaking up the sun all year round and filling the air with the fragrant smell of oranges.

Mikan groves in Wakayama are built into the mountainsides in stone terraces. The first terraces were built centuries ago by local farmers to ensure that the mikan groves absorb plenty of sunshine whatever the season. The terraces also help prevent landslides, and the stones reflect the sunlight back on to the mikan, making them even sweeter.

The right climate and environment are important for successful production, but it’s the daily dedication of the farmers that helps keep the mikan sweet. Mikan trees need to be pruned regularly to ensure a stable harvest every year, and farmers help encourage the increase in sugar content by limiting how much they water the trees in the hot summer months.

Arida Mikan are said to have become popular from the early Edo period (1603-1868), thanks to a local youth with a taste for adventure, who risked his life to sail a cargo full of mikan through a raging storm to sell to the people of Edo (now Tokyo). The trip was a success: he made a huge profit and Arida Mikan became a huge hit in Edo.

Different Ways to Enjoy Arida Mikan

Arida Mikan are harvested from September to January, meaning they can be enjoyed for a longer period. They are divided into types, depending on when they are harvested. The most common, wase mikan, are harvested from October to December. They have a soft, orange color peel, plump juicy flesh, and the ideal balance between sweet and sour. In September, the green gokuwase mikan are harvested. These are firm and have a tangier, sour flavor.

Arida Mikan are not only delicious as a fruit, but make a tasty drink too. Mikan juice is produced by most of the Arida Mikan farms, and is sold in Japan and around the world. Each mikan is carefully peeled by hand and pressed to preserve the flavor. Some farms use a special laser to check the sweetness of each mikan and produce juice with different levels of sweetness, from sugar-sweet to refreshingly tangy. Whether as a winter fruit or summer juice, Arida Mikan can be enjoyed all year long.