Japan has a reputation for growing interesting fruits. Some of the most interesting creations are fruits given as a gift, such as square watermelons, pretty red santonishiki cherries, luxury Yūbari King melons, and white strawberries.
The White Jewel strawberry
White strawberries are known in Japan as the Shirou Houseki variety, or ‘White Jewel‘. They have a smooth white colour, with the same reddish seeds as a normal strawberry, and are several times larger than the average strawberry.
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Why are Japanese strawberries white?
They are specially cross-bred and grown in dark conditions to reduce the red colour of a normal strawberry, grown by a single producer, Yasuhito Teshima, from the Saga prefecture.
The white colour comes from the absence of anthocyanin, a naturally-occurring pigment that gives fruits their red, purple or blue colour. Some of them will start to take on their natural red colour when exposed to sunlight, so the rarest of the White Jewels are the ones that retain their white colour.
What do White Jewel strawberries taste like?
While the white colour might make them seem sour or tasteless (like the base of a normal strawberry), they are in fact very sweet. According to John Daub from Only in Japan, the taste of a white strawberry is sweet like a candy, with a hint of pineapple.
Buying White Jewel strawberries
White Jewel strawberries are sold individually in small cushioned packs, or in packs. They aren’t cheap, with a single fruit going for about 1080 Yen each (around $10USD).
You can buy white strawberries in many places, from supermarkets to department stores, markets and train stations – basically anywhere that sells fancy treats and gifts.
Nara strawberry lab
Other varieties of white strawberries are available too, but don’t have the same prestige as the White Jewel. The Nara strawberry lab is a cooperative of strawberry producers, and sells packs of red, pink and white strawberries, grown in similar conditions to the White Jewel.
Japan as a strawberry producer
Taking a step back to look at the strawberry industry as a whole, Japan is a major producer of the delicious little fruits. As of 2013, Japan is the seventh largest strawberry producer in the world, and most of the strawberries are sold in Japan.
As a long country with many different climatic zones, strawberries are grown in different conditions and during different times of year depending on where you are.
Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, is the largest strawberry-growing region, and it’s a popular activity for local and international visitors to visit a strawberry farm and spend an afternoon picking strawberries. Their Tochi Otome (Tochigi Maiden) is the most popular variety, a small, sweet strawberry.
Tochigi Prefecture is followed by Fukuoka Prefecture, way down in the south island of Kyushu. Here, the most produced variety is the gigantic Amao (Sweet King), which can be five times larger than the average strawberry.
Around the country, there are wonderfully evocative names as different producers try to create the sweetest varieties. Some examples are ‘Red Cheeks’, ‘Beautiful Princess’, ‘Skyberry’, and ‘Scent of a First Love’.
Japanese Strawberries – a must try food!
If you love to try unusual foods while visiting Japan, it’s worth checking out the White Jewel white strawberries. They’re a pretty expensive treat to buy, but definitely worth checking out!
If you want to learn about more amazing Japanese fruits with incredibly high prices, read more here!