Fruit Picking and Tasting in Okayama / Tomomien (Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture)
Due to its low annual rainfall, Okayama Prefecture is known as the land of sunshine. The climate is excellent for growing fruit, and a large variety is cultivated in the area. The two most valuable are grapes and white peaches. For this article, I visited Tomomien (a farm open to visitors that comes highly recommended) to enjoy some fruit picking.
Four Kinds of Grapes
Akaiwa is located about 40 minutes drive from the center of Okayama City. The terrain here is hilly and the nature charming. A sign by the side of the road lets you know that you have arrived at Tomomien.
Four kinds of grapes are cultivated at Tomomien: The Muscat of Alexandria, which originates in Okayama; the Seto Giant, which is large, seedless, and has an edible skin; the Giant Muscat; and the Pione, which is also large and seedless. The first three are white, the last is purple.
When I visited, Mrs. Fujiwara, who has been taking care of the grapes since the farm started more than 20 years ago, took me on a tour. She told me that, “Pruning the bunches everyday to make sure the nutrients are spread evenly among the grapes is hard work, but it truly makes me happy when our visitors think they are delicious.”
Giants – One-bite Deliciousness
The farm offers a number of courses, including grape picking and tasting, or just tasting. I tried the course that allowed me to pick a whole bunch of Seto Giants plus eat 20 grapes! While the regular price for this course is 2700 yen, if you book before 17:00 one day in advance, it’s 2500 yen.
Seto Giants originate in Okayama and are popular thanks to their tasty sweetness. The secret to finding a yummy bunch is taking the bunch (gently) in your hand and checking its weight. The heavier it is, the more packed with sweet deliciousness it is!
After enjoying the picking, I went to the tasting corner. As grapes taste best after being chilled for 2 or 3 hours, I was given a nicely chilled bunch to eat there and then. (The bunch I picked was carefully packed for me to take home as a souvenir.) When I put the first grape in my mouth, I was immediately surprised at how juicy it was, and by the refreshingly sweet flavor that filled my entire mouth. (Their skins are so thin you can eat the grapes unpeeled.)
A souvenir shop is located about 5-minutes drive from the farm. Offering grape and peach jellies, sparkling fruit wine, and much more, the shop has a wide variety of items that make perfect souvenirs and gifts.
The name of the farm itself suggests the fame of the above-mentioned peach. The Japanese character for the “to” in Tomomien is peach. Through July and August, the farm cultivates 23 different kinds of peaches. During that period, the shelves are stacked high, and you can try peach tasting as well.
The natural environment surrounding the farm, and the fact that you can pick the fruit yourself and indulge in fruit tasting makes the farm a very attractive destination for everyone. I will definitely be going back to try the peaches!
Address: 281-1 Kamiichi, Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture
Nearest station: JR Seto Station