One of the things that most people think about when talking about Japan is the weird and wonderful fruits. While a cubic watermelon or heart-shaped apple is a cool novelty, Japanese fruits are some of the best in the world, and it’s worth trying as many as you can on your visit. Fruits from Japan are unique, delicious and while your wallet may take a hit, you may discover a new favorite!
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Why Are Japanese Fruits So Expensive?
Many fruits grown in Japan have been introduced from abroad and are instantly recognizable to visitors; some, however, are native to Japan and aren’t very well known outside of East and South East Asia.
Fruit plays a different role in Japanese culture to many other parts of the world. Instead of being a quick and healthy snack, Japanese fruit is seen as a luxury, often given as gifts or apologies and used on special occasions. In Japan, fruit can be a status symbol – remember that next time you see someone eating a Japanese berry!
There are also heavy regulations placed on size, color, and taste fruits from Japan determined by the Japan Agricultural Cooperative. Japanese farmers take particular pride in their crops and tend to them with as much care and dedication as they do their children. The result is perfect, blemish-free produce that is worthy of being gifted or used in celebration, and as a result, draws a premium price.
While there is a large market for luxury Japanese fruits (like the above-mentioned cubic watermelons), most fruits in Japan are available in supermarkets and reasonably priced. Look for in-season fruits in regional towns and at markets, where the cost will be lower than in big cities like Tokyo.
If you’re worried about being able to pronounce Japanese fruit names, don’t be! Japanese fruit names are commonly used all over the world, so you’ve probably heard them before; nashi, mikan, and yuzu are all known as the same.
Traveling to Japan? Check out these posts:
13 Japanese Fruits You Have to Try
Here are our picks for must-try Japanese fruits for your visit to Japan. If you can’t make it over, many of these can also be found in Asian supermarkets or as ingredients in Japanese dishes served in restaurants.
Japanese Pear – Nashi
Known for their spherical shape and rough skin, Nashi pears are a well-known Japanese fruit that is sold in supermarkets around the world. These fruits have been grown in Japan since prehistoric times, and are available in late summer to early fall. Nashi are known by their Japanese fruit name overseas as well, which makes them easy to find.
Be careful with the nashi pears you buy; while the ripe ones have a lightly sweet taste, unripe nashi are hard and sour.
Nashi pears have a grainy, crunchy texture which makes them ideally eaten fresh rather than cooked.
Japanese Persimmon – Kaki
While the name might be misleading, kaki are not quite like the persimmons commonly found on Western supermarket shelves. These fruits grown in Japan are closer in comparison to apples and nashi pears in their shape and size. They also have a crunchier consistency compared to that of their Korean cousin.
Japanese Kaki are usually eaten fresh and cut into pieces, or dried and eaten in a similar way to figs. They also feature in many traditional Japanese salads and desserts. Like many Japanese fruit, Kaki are in season late-fall and winter.
Originating in China and introduced to Japan during the Asuka Period, yuzu are sour citrus fruits that are reminiscent of grapefruit in their taste. Unlike other citrus, this Japanese fruit has little pulp and is mostly used for its zest and juice.
Yuzu is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, as the tart citrus flavor adds depth to any dish and cuts through the fats and salts, giving a well-balanced flavor profile.
If you’re not a big fan of the taste of these fruits from Japan, another way to experience yuzu is by visiting public baths during the winter solstice. Yuzu are traditionally placed into the water for good luck, health, and the heavenly fresh fragrance.
Mandarin Orange – Mikan
Known as kan, mikan is the most popular variety of Japanese oranges and is easily available in any supermarket across the country. Perfect for kids, these Japanese citrus fruits are easy to peel and do not contain seeds, making them a perfect on-the-go Japanese snack for an urban explorer.
This name might look familiar to you, as mikan is one of a handful of Japanese fruits to be widely exported; mikan is also known as ‘mandarin oranges’ in Western countries, and are a common product sold in major supermarkets.
Like yuzu, mikan was introduced to Japan from China and is available in early winter.
Japanese Plum – Ume
Ume is one of the few fruits grown in Japan that aren’t enjoyed raw. Their strong flavor and tough texture make them a popular choice for pickling into umeboshi and eaten as an accompaniment to rice balls (onigiri).
If you feel like something a little stronger, ume is also used to create Japanese plum wines and liqueurs, and are incredibly refreshing after a long day.
Ume is in season during early summer and is a common favorite for visitors looking to take on a fruit-picking adventure.
Of all the fruits in Japan, Japanese peaches are one of the most well-known. A coveted fruit by locals and visitors alike, Japanese peaches are at the top of the list when it comes to fruits grown in Japan. They are larger and sweeter than Western peaches, with white flesh and a creamy texture that will leave you wanting more.
Introduced from China around 300BC, Japanese peaches are in season during summer and are usually enjoyed raw. Japanese peaches are steeped in local lore, in particular the folklore tale of Momotaro (The Peach Boy), and have special traditional meanings surrounding holidays and celebrations. During the spring, tourists and locals alike will flock to see the blooming of these special Japanese fruit trees.
Peaches are another reason why visitors believe that Japanese fruits are so expensive; high quality, premium peaches can cost upwards of 1000 yen and are often sold in protective packing to avoid bruising.
Kyoho – Japanese Grapes
Just like Japanese berries, Japanese grapes are usually fairly similar to their Western cousins. The main difference between Japanese grapes and their Western cousins is that Japanese grapes have thicker skins, and are usually peeled before eating.
Kyoho grapes are a particularly popular variety of Japanese grapes, known primarily for their large size and sweet, translucent green flesh. In season during late summer and early fall, kyoho are usually eaten on their own as a sweet warm-weather treat but are also used to make wine.
Japanese fruit names often translate as a literal description; in this case, kyoho means ‘big mountain grape’!
One of the main reasons why visitors think that Japanese fruits are so expensive, Japanese melons are the most well-known luxury fruit on the market. Premium melons can sell for over 10,000 yen per piece and are only available in luxury supermarkets.
Melons are usually enjoyed freshly sliced as a palate cleanser at the end of meals; however, they are available to purchase in individual slices from street vendors and supermarkets when they are in season during late spring and summer.
Akebi is a beautiful and unique fruit grown in Japan that doesn’t have much press outside of the country; the distinctive purple pods and sweet white flesh are both edible, though the first as a vegetable and the second as a fruit.
This versatile fruit is native to the north of Japan and is usually only available in luxury supermarkets and ‘upmarket fruit boutiques’ in major cities for around three weeks per year.
Mizuho – Loquat
Loquat fruits are oval, rounded fruits with downy yellow-orange skin and sweet, white, or yellow flesh. Often compared to peaches and plums, the loquat is native to southern Japan, and has been cultivated there for over 1,000 years.
These Japanese fruit trees usually bloom in the fall and produce fruit in early spring; however, unseasonably warm winters can sometimes see an early harvest.
If you’re on a roll with your luxury fruit tour, you don’t want to miss out on white strawberries. These rare Japanese berries are cultivated by a single grower in the Saga precinct and sell for around 1100 yen per berry. They are created through cross-breeding different varieties of strawberries, and only around 10 percent will stay white once exposed to sunlight.
The high price-point and rarity of this Japanese berry mean that it is usually given as a fancy gift rather than eaten as an overpriced snack. If you are to try one, expect a sugary-sweet flavor similar to cotton candy, with a hint of pineapple.
One of the better-known fruits in Japan, the Fuji Apple is a Japanese hybrid between Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Jennet varieties. This delicious, crisp fruit is named after Fujisaki where it was first cultivated in the late 1930s and is a best-selling fruit in the United States.
These Japanese-created apples remain the most popular variety in their home country, with Japanese locals preferring the taste and texture over almost any other.
During the season, this Japanese fruit tree produces beautiful blossoms and is a favorite amongst tourists for fruit-picking tours.
Shikuwasa – Japanese Lime
Originating from Okinawa, Shikuwasa (“sour food”) is a green fruit with a tart, sour taste. These native fruits from Japan are often used like the Western lemon and is common in juices, desserts, and marinades for seafood.
Shikuwasa is also believed by Japanese locals to have healing properties, with many attributing the long lifespans of Okinawans to their regular consumption of the magical fruit. While this might not be entirely true, Shikuwasa contains high levels of vitamin C and nobiletin, which are believed to inhibit diabetes and the growth of cancer cells.
In Japan, fruit is a luxury; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! The rich cultural attachment to fruit in Japan is unique, and the perfect, blemish free produce is unlike any other you’ll experience.