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Great Escapes Cherry Picking
(Entered Jun. 10, 2010)
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The year in Japan is divided into fruits, not months. If you ever lose your calendar (and your memory I suppose) and want to know what time of year it is, all you have to do is walk into any supermarket. If you see peaches on display it's summer; grapes, it's late summer/early autumn; pears, autumn; apples, early winter; mikan oranges, winter; strawberries, spring and last but definitely not least, cherries, early summer. I love all fruit but I look forward to cherries all year long.
Now that cherry season is upon us though, it isn't enough to just go buy some at the supermarket, you need to get out and pick your own, or 'hunt' them as the Japanese like to say.

cherry tree close up

Although we called to make reservations a month in advance, it seemed that every last cherry picking tour spot o'er the land was booked solid. Kumi and I, plus her friend Junko and her daughter Noa, luckily just managed to snag the last 4 seats on one of them though.
An early morning bus whisked us out to Yamanashi prefecture and the cherry orchards, with a few stops along the way for things like traffic jams and restroom breaks. I guess 'whisked' isn't exactly the right word. 'Plodded' maybe?

cherry picking kumi

There were about 50 people on our bus, and only 3 of them (including myself) were guys. All the rest were young, very attractive women. Even Kumi and Junko wondered aloud about the abundance of cute girls, but the lack of couples, children (Noa was the only child), and elderly people. Single guys out there take note. Forget the bars in Roppongi, go cherry picking!

cherry tree yamanashi

Being tall is definitely an advantage sometimes (well actually most of the time) and I took advantage of here. While the lower branches of the trees were mostly empty, having been picked bare by small Japanese girls, the upper branches were laden with fruit, and I was the only one who could reach them.

cherry picking noa

Japanese and American cherries are different. While American cherries are big, inexpensive and so red they're almost black, Japanese cherries are small, super expensive and pale red with yellowish highlights. They taste almost exactly the same though. I'm not really sure why Japanese cherries are so expensive, but when you see them in the supermarket they'll usually be packed in perfect little rows in clean white boxes.

cherry picking kumi junko

Many Japanese fruit picking tours are notorious in that you're not allowed to pick fruit and take it home! You're supposed to gorge yourself while there, then buy boxes of cherries (for exorbitant fees) to take home with you. I was having none of it though. For the amount of money you pay for the tour itself, you should be getting your own fruit tree to take home. Failing getting my own cherry tree however I did the next best thing, I gorged myself on cherries while there AND took about 200 of them home with me. Word of advice, bring a bag (preferably empty).



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