My local neighborhood market has been having a run on strawberries lately. Granted, these red gems made their entrance to the fruit/produce area back in January, but as of late, the deal of ¥100 a basket has been too good to pass up. There’s nothing like a box of fruit delivered practically to your doorstep, but if you have a hankering to go pick some strawberries yourself (called ichigogari, or strawberry gathering) this is the perfect season to hightail it to Shizuoka.
Shizuoka is one of those magical prefectures, with scenery to fit anyone’s travel style. Want the sea? How about the entire coast of the Izu Peninsula? Are mountains your thing? Well, there’s Fuji … need I say more? Surprisingly though, the prefecture’s main town (also named Shizuoka) is overlooked on many a tourist itinerary.
Which is a shame, especially in strawberry season. Yes, bringing it back to those luscious red berries … probably the best place to indulge in a fruit-picking (and eating) experience is in one of the strawberry farms on the road that hugs Suruga Bay. The farms here sit at the base of the Nihondaira Plateau, facing south and in full view of the sun. Pick any one of them, pay your fee and receive your cup of “dipping sugar”. Chances are you won’t need this syrupy concoction – the berries are often sweet enough. But it comes with the price so you might as well try it.
Strawberry picking here is more of the “all you can eat” variety. As I was busy looking around for containers and planning the strawberry jam I would make at home, our farm hand was explaining that we had 30 minutes to pick and eat all the strawberries we wanted. However, if I wanted to take any home, that was an additional fee (and I had to select from the pre-picked flats).
What seemed a tad disappointing at first (30 minutes only?? can’t take any home??) soon turned into strawberry euphoria (which all too quickly melted into strawberry overload :P). For half an hour, we cruised the covered rows of one strawberry greenhouse after another, selecting only the plumpest specimens and savoring the crisp, sweet flavors on our tongue. As it turns out, 30 minutes is about 10 minutes too long to eat as many strawberries as one wants and, after that experience, I certainly didn’t want to take any home with me!
Should you feel the need to walk off any strawberry-induced calories, the Kunozan Toshogu Mausoleum (the original burial place of the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu) is just down the road … and accessible by some 1159 stairs. 🙂