A Taste of Summer

Did you know that Ibaraki is Japan’s number one producer of melons? Not only that, they produce roughly a quarter of all the melons grown in Japan, and boast of the highest quality among Japanese melons. Within Ibaraki, 65% of the melons produced come from Hokota City, an area bordering the Pacific Ocean near the middle of Ibaraki Prefecture.

Roughly 45 years ago farmers in the JA Ibaraki Asahikawa-mura area began growing prince melons as an alternative to their usual barley and potato crops, and soon discovered that the warm climate, large variation between daytime and evening temperatures, and the moist high-nutrient soil were perfect growing conditions for melons. Gradually the growing area increased and they began growing netted melons such as Andes melons as well, selling them across the country.

In order to better cater to consumers who have come to expect a high level of quality from Japanese melons, in 2004 they began using light sensors to select melons for distribution. Light sensor selection involves shining light from both sides of the melons and measuring the sweetness (sugar content) and ripeness (maturity) of the melons based on their translucence. Only melons that have achieved a certain standard are distributed to customers. For those who want the very best, there are melons with even netting and over 18% sugar content, which comprise only 1% of the total melons produced!

But, melons aren’t just for the rich. Like many other fruits and vegetables in Japan, you can go pick your own at certain farms, so-called melon-gari, or ‘melon hunting’. This time of year, May until the end of June, is the peak season for melons in Japan, so now is your chance to get your own perfect melon. To that end, here is a listing of places within the Hokota City area where you can pick your own melons, go for an all-you-can-eat feast, or just taste-test some of the country’s best fruit.

Minami Kajuengei

0291-37-1049

Period: June 1st to July 1st, 9am to 5pm

Caters to both individuals and groups (groups must make a reservation)

Options: Entrance fee of 525yen (includes taste testing)

–          U-pick (take home), 800yen/kg

–          All-you-can-eat (30 minutes, must reserve in advance), 1260yen adults, 840yen children (children under 5 are free)

JA Ibaraki Asahi-mura Sun Green Asahi

0291-37-4147

Period: End of May to end of June, 9am to 4pm

Caters to groups of 15 or more only

Please make reservations at least one week in advance

Prices: 1 for take-home and 1/2 of one for taste-testing = 2000yen

JA Kashimanada Farmer’s Market Nadarou

0291-34-8888

Period: May 15th to June 20th, Weekends only, 11am and 2pm

Caters to groups of 5 or more only

Reservations can be made as late as the day before

Options: U-pick – 1600yen

U-pick + taste-testing – 2000yen

Forest Park Melon no Mori

0291-33-5621

Period: May 3rd to July 8th, 10am to 5pm

Caters to individuals and groups

Reservations required on weekdays, not necessary on weekends (groups always need reservations)

Options:

1. Standard U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 3 take-home, 4300yen/person

2. Taste-testing/5-variety comparison (starts June 1st, depends on season): 5 1/2 melons taste-testing, 3400yen/group (up to 2 people)

3. Family U-pick: 4 1/2 melons for taste-testing, 3 take-home, 5900yen/group (up to 4 people)

4. Single U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 1900yen/person

5. Perfect U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 1 take-home, 2500yen/person

6. Twin U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 2 take-home, 3100yen/person

7. Taste-testing/Taste one: 2 1/2 melons (as of June, 2 varieties), 1400yen/person

8. Taste-testing/Tasting: 1/2 melon, 800yen/person

9. Single Barbeque (serves one person) and U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 4300yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

10. Perfect Barbeque (serves one person) and U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 1 take-home, 4900yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

11. Twin Barbeque (serves two people) and U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 2 take-home, 9500yen/group (max 2 people)

12. Family Barbeque (serves 3 people) and U-pick: 4 1/2 melons taste-test, 3 take-home, 13,800yen/group (max 4 people)

13. Barbeque (serves one person) and taste-testing: 1/2 melon taste-test, 3200yen/group (groups of 5 or more only)

14. Barbeque only (serves one person): 2800yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

15. Variety-specific, Yuki melon U-pick (as of June 1st): 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 6500yen/person

16. Lunch and dessert (groups of 25 or more): 1/2 melon taste-test, 2300yen/person

Kenko Tasshaka-mura Shinsaku Noen

0291-39-8560

Period: Middle of June to Beginning of July, 8am to 5pm

Caters to individuals and groups (must have reservation, limit 50 people/day)

Reservations can be made as late as 3 days in advance

Prices: Entrance fee 500yen

U-pick (take-home) – 800yen/kg

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