Now, some may say I'm a stick in the mud, but I've never considered myself the kind of man who gets excited at the thought of going fruit picking. Call me old fashioned, but that's just the way I was brought up. However, it's always good to try something, at least once in life, perhaps... And so it was that I found myself on a bus with a group of people, heading out of Tokyo on our way to rural Yamanashi Prefecture. After a short stop at a service station, we arrived at Miharashien and found ourselves surrounded by rolling fields with crooked trees growing in orderly lines.
Kick out the Jams
The staff at Miharashien showed us down to the area where the strawberries were growing and we assembled around a small table on which there were jams made from the produce of Miharashien on sale. We were each given a small tray with two compartments: one with cream in it for dipping strawberries in, and another empty space for putting the green stalks in after we had eaten the strawberries. Finally, we listened to the guides give us 3 bits of important information:
1. When picking the strawberries, don't pull down hard as this may damage the stems, turn the strawberry upside down and pull gently.
2. Don't be frightened of the bees flying around the area, they are doing an important job and will not bother you. Under no circumstances should you bat at them with your hand as this might make them angry.
3. There is free chocolate sauce to dip your strawberries into.
And with that, we were away! Here are a few pictures:
After more delicious juicy strawberries than the human body can handle, we moved to the restaurant area for lunch.
Magma... à la carte
We made our way back up the hill from the strawberry groves to the lunch area and settled into a good bit of barbeque...except, this barbeque had something peculiar about it. Looking closely at the hot plate on which our food was cooking, we could see little holes...lo and behold, our hot plate was made from none other than a piece of cool lava stone straight from old Mt. Fuji himself! We all ate our fill of delicious barbecued meat and vegetables, then jumped on the bus again to head to our next stop.
The tour made a stop at the Okashi no Bijutsukan: literally a gallery for sweets. The gallery was attached to the Kikyouya sweet factory and had displays of exquisite sculptures made entirely from sweets! Believe it or not, all of the sculptures below are edible!
Our last stop on the tour was the Chateau Katsunuma Winery. Yamanashi Prefecture is a large producer of grapes, and the tour was guided through the winery by the staff as we were told about the production method and the journey from grape to wine.
After a tour of the winery, we were able to sample the wines made at the Chateau Katsunuma. The winery also produces non-alcoholic grape juices and there were samples available to try - perfect for non-drinkers.
On the way back to Tokyo, full of strawberries, meat and wine, I started feeling a little sleepy. As I snoozed off, I began to realise that, despite my initial reaction towards a day of picking fruit, I had in fact had an extremely enjoyable day.
Fruit picking tours are currently unavailable, but check back soon for 2014!
Note: As well as having an English-speaking guide on hand throughout, this tour also provides participants with GPS audio guide units, with language guidance available in Thai, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian! The commentary will automatically start to play whenever the user passes through a certain GPS location!