(Entered Sep. 12, 2009)
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The Japanese don't actually pick fruit, they hunt it. Momo-gari (peach hunting), mikan-gari (orange hunting), ichigo-gari (strawberry hunting), etc, the -gari ending actually means 'to hunt' and stems from days long past when fruit was more dangerous and fought back.
The farm we went to was overwhelmingly a black (kyoho) grape farm, with a few red grape trees thrown in. No green grapes unfortunately, they'd already been hunted to extinction.
These days fruit in Japan is coddled. You'd think that after a million years or so the plants would've figured things out by now, but no, they need help. Just like we humans can't live with our TVs, jeans and airconditioners, fruit in Japan needs to be wrapped in paper and plastic. If you did otherwise who knows what would happen. Your fruit would probably grow up to be psychopathic or suicidal or something.
Paper bags over the grapes come with a small see through 'window' of plastic. Why? So that you can look your grapes in the eye before you spear them through the heart of course! It was a good thing actually, because a large portion of the grapes on the vine were already rotting. As we headed into the orchard, we heard one older dude complaining to a staff memeber that half the grapes he picked had already gone bad. We weren't exactly overwhelmed by confidence heading in, and many searches through the plastic barrier showed that more than half of all the grape bunches were waaaay past their prime. Have you ever smelled rotting grapes? Not pretty.... We gamely searched for a few fresh bunches and ended up plucking four of them, two red and two black. I was initially worried about the quality of grapes on a farm where the default seems to be moldy and rotten, but I needn't have worried, they were delicious!
After we were done the hunting part, we washed our kill, and our hands in a tap and set too. Kumi and I managed to eat two whole bunches between us and wanted more. The shop had left out free pear slices on the counter so we polished those off too.
Then we headed back to Urawa station and went to a ramen restaurant. One cannot live on fruit alone!
Hakodate - Day 3