It all started when I was on my way to a sakura / cherry blossom event. I was in Shibuya and you can’t go empty
handed to a hanami party so in the basement of the station is a place
called Tokyu department store and they have a place called Food Show which has
some of the most amazing fruits in all of Japan. Rare and super expensive. And then I saw this. That’s it right in the center. the white strawberry. I mean is it unripe? Painted? Dyed? Bleached? What? They had it in a box and here in a case almost like jewelry. Just one white strawberry in a
pack you could smell it standing a couple
meters away. A big price tag for a strawberry. But hey, you only live once, right? and it’s pretty big. That’s right the
mother of all strawberries. Technically I’m incorrect. The mother of all
strawberries would be the BIJIN HIME or beautiful princess strawberry at
Okuda farm in Gifu Prefecture. It’s big and beautiful. Up to 100 grams. 1
strawberry can cost fifty thousand yen so who buys a $500 strawberry? It’s for
gifts of course, to the one you love this is the 500 yen coin next to a typical
large strawberry. And here is the BIJIN HIME. Most impressive. Maybe even better than a
diamond ring. What makes the Japanese strawberry so delicious? I traveled
across the river from Tokyo to neighboring Ichikawa city in Chiba
Prefecture to find some answers at OTA Strawberry Farm established in 1999 I asked Ota-san why Japanese strawberries were so sweet. It starts with winter. In winter, it takes a long time for it to get ripe, to get red so over more time, it gets redder. and much sweeter. Once it gets to March, it gets much warmer. That speeds up ripening more quickly. That means it’s not as sweet (as in the winter). Temperature control is important to
sweetness. The best season from January to March. I learned a lot from Ota-san. He grows four varieties of strawberries,
each one a different size and shape. Japan has a love affair with strawberries. The
names reflect that. Tochi Otome. Beni Hoppe. Hatsukoi no Kaori. All romantic names. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it? That’s the Japanese strawberry. Japanese strawberries are typically softer and juicier than other strawberries. This
makes it hard to export and anyway, there are a lot of hungry strawberry eaters
here in Japan. According to the Japanese National Tourist Organization JNTO,
Japan is the largest producer and consumer of dessert strawberries in the
world. You can see why this is a paradise for sweet tooth strawberry lovers. It
even has a place in the sandwich line. The strawberry custard or cream
sandwiches is a hit. Perfect with coffee or a glass of champagne. Back to the white strawberry. Meet Teshima-san in Saga prefecture, the only one who grows the Shiroi Houseki
variety of White strawberry. I talked to him by telephone and he told me that his
farm has about 50 varieties of white strawberries. They are made by crossbreeding
and strict sunlight control in his greenhouse. Strawberries are a little bit
like people. If you get a lot of sunlight you turn brown. Strawberries turn red. the SHIROI HOUSEKI is rare because
only ten percent stay wide after sun exposure, and those are the ones that are
prized. This is a pinebarry. It’s one variety of
white strawberry popular in Europe these days this is the SHOROI HOUSEKI or white jewel of saga prefecture. It’s called this because it resembles a precious stone with a
little blush and it’s extremely rare to find. The original mainstream Japanese
white strawberry is the Hatsukoi no Kaori or Scent of First Love. The SHIROI HOUSEKI on the other hand is a strawberry that was crossbred with very
limited sun exposure in the greenhouse If you didn’t see the sun, often you’d
probably be pale too! Its white because it contains less ANTHOCYANIN which is what gives strawberries its red color. As you can see, both the white but the pineberry is much smaller. The SHOROI HOUSEKI is larger, softer and juicer.
There are many kinds of white strawberries in Japan. Yuki Usagi. Sakura
Ichigo. Tenshi no Mi. They’re all crossbred man-made varieties of the
strawberry with new versions popping up every year mind you these are not genetically
modified but crossbred there’s a difference. Is the SHIROI HOUSEKI a Pineberry? I’d say no. I see it as a Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella
inside one glass slipper. She’s not entirely white. That blush! It’s berry
seductive. Soft skin. And those dimples. Eh, hairy dimples aren’t my thing, but I could look past it with a glass of champagne. Her sisters are marked as
white strawberries but they’re more like pink. You can see why these costs only
480 yen. Not cheap but they aren’t exactly going to win a
beauty pageant. The normal red strawberries look good, too. But come on! We all dream of this one. Only 1080 yen and she’s yours. so for reference I have a regular sized
strawberry here and the white strawberry. And now — the SHIROI HOUSEKI. They both smell really sweet —
but this one has more of a sugary smell to it. Okay, for reference I’m going to try
the normal strawberry first Sweet. Strawberry-ry. The white SHIROI HOUSEKI. Pineapple in the first two seconds. Very pleasant. Inside the SHIROI HOUSEKI white
strawberry is — white no surprise there. Both strawberries
were delicious and offered a different taste experience. So now you have to ask
yourself, was it worth it? No. No it wasn’t. But, I think you have to try it because just
curiosity gets the better of you when you see something that’s outrageously
priced and to be honest 1080 yen is not that much to try for an experiment. I
mean a melon would cost 25,000 yen which is about $220. Well that’s for a pair of
muskmelon but still, that’s a lot you could pay even more. But this is so
Japanese because what they’ve done is taken something like the everyday
strawberry and they’ve made it better bigger — white! And that’s pretty cool. A small price to pay for a berry
delicious adventure and Japan.