Kids Web Japan

Tochigi: Tochiotome Strawberries

Tochigi Prefecture's 'Tochiotome' strawberry

The Strawberry Kingdom of Japan

Tochigi Prefecture lies right in the middle of the long main island of Japan. It is surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, with fertile plains spreading from its center to the southern boundary. Rivers bring fresh water down from the mountains and beneath the land is an abundance of groundwater.

This plentiful environment has led to a thriving agricultural industry, with strawberries being the best-known crop. In fact, Tochigi is the biggest producer of strawberries in the whole of Japan, which is why it is known as the Strawberry Kingdom.

Tochigi-Grown and Pick-Your-Own

Strawberry farming in Tochigi began in the 1950s and since then has undergone a lot of research and development. Strawberries used to be grown outdoors which meant they mainly produced fruit in May. But now, by growing strawberries in greenhouses and with the development of more varieties, farmers can harvest many different types of strawberries from November to June.

Strawberry farming requires dedication and hard work. Farmers need to separate and plant each seedling by hand, and wrap the roots in straw or plastic in winter to protect the plants against the cold. In summer, farmers sometimes place the seedlings into a refrigerator. This technique makes the plants think the season is changing and speeds up the harvesting.

There are also plenty of strawberry farms for tourism in Tochigi, where you can experience strawberry harvesting firsthand. You can go inside a greenhouse and compare the flavors and smells of freshly picked strawberries, including newly developed varieties and strawberries that can only be tasted locally.

Tochiotome – A Strawberry Born and Raised in Tochigi

There are many strawberry varieties grown in Tochigi, but the most widely produced is the Tochiotome variety. The name Tochiotome is a compound noun that comes from “Tochi” in “Tochigi” and the Japanese word “otome,” which means “a young girl.” The Tochitome variety was developed through research and first appeared in 1996. It is characterized by its nicely pointed shape, bright red coloring, and a taste that balances sweet and sour.

The attractive appearance of Tochiotome strawberries make them a popular choice for decorating desserts. Every winter in Japan, cafes and restaurants serve special cakes, sundaes, and other treats featuring Tochiotome strawberries. On Christmas Eve, Japanese families around the country enjoy the strawberries-and-cream Christmas sponge cakes that have become a much-loved holiday tradition.

If you ever visit Japan, seek out this Ruby of the Strawberry Kingdom and taste its treasures for yourself!