This article is featured in the J. Festa October 2011 edition: “Entertainment in Japan,” hosted at japingu.
The second three-day weekend of “Silver Week,” the week in mid-September with both the national holidays of the Autumnal Equinox (shûbun no hi, 秋分の日) and Respect for the Aged Day (keirô no hi, 敬老の日), found me and a fellow foodie touring Hida-Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. We sampled most of the local specialties, dined at a number of adorable cafes, and sampled some local brews on our trip (more on these to follow in later posts), and as we left Takayama and headed for Kanazawa, we decided to pay a visit to an orchard in Hida for some apple-picking.
Kurouchi Orchard Fruit Park (furûtsu pâku kurouchi kajuen, フルーツパーク 黒内果樹園) is a small peach-and-apple orchard tucked back into the rolling hills of Hida. If I had been on my own and carless, I would have not been able to take this trip, so I was grateful for the ride and the company. The facility was founded in 1973 and employs 14 people.
According to the website, the Tsugaru (つがる）apples were in season when we came, so I think we were picking those. Some children were there with their families and made a big deal of finding the reddest apples of the lot. I went with whatever was ripe and could be reached.
The Japanese charmingly refer to the act of harvesting (shûkaku, 収穫) as 〜狩り (~gari), or X-hunting. Apple picking is リンゴ狩り (ringo gari); bamboo-shoot gathering is タケノコ狩り (take no ko gari), and so on.
With an orchard this packed with apples, though, it was less hunting and more finding the low-hanging fruit, as these trees were quite small compared to the apple trees I’ve seen in the US. I had rather expected to be up a tree or on a ladder, but I was able to grab three apples with hardly any assistance.
We opted for the “all you can eat” course for 500 yen, and with how big Japanese varieties of apples are, I think I might have managed to eat nearly a kilo of apples with the three I picked. Buckets for skins and cores, as well as knives for peeling, were provided. Japanese people tend to peel the skins off fruit for some cultural reason I haven’t quite worked out, other than that nashi– and budô peels are often tough and aren’t very good to eat. I was grateful for the knife, since some dental work prevents me from biting into hard fruit.
What is special about this orchard is that they use pheromones instead of pesticides to keep the insects away. However, pheromones don’t keep the bees away, which is great if you are a flower but not so good if you don’t like bees. My friend and I were running around the orchard trying to get the bees to leave our fruit alone as we tried to eat it; in retrospect, I probably should have put down my knife before dancing with the bees. Mostly the bees hung out in the bucket of peels, and I didn’t feel in danger, but if you are allergic to or afraid of bees, it would be best to sit this one out.
The apples were sweet and firm, the sun was shining, and the air was crisp. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate the fall equinox!
Gifu-ken Hida-shi Furukawa Kurouchi 446
Toll free 0120-377-262 (does not work with cell phones)
Mid-September to late October
Entry/All you can eat: 500 yen for adults; 300 for children
Basket: 1500 for adults; 1300 from children
No reservations necessary, but I would email or call if you are taking a large group.