Pick and eat seasonal fruits for a delicious day out
Last updated: December 21, 2020
The most satisfying way to eat fruit is by picking it straight from the tree yourself. Farms and orchards across Gunma offer the opportunity to pick fruit in all seasons. With varied climates from the cool alpine regions to the fertile plains, the seasons for each fruit will be longer or shorter depending on the area. Most participating farms have “pick and eat” deals in which you can pick and eat as much as you like within a specified time (usually from 30 to 60 minutes). You may be able to take your fruit away for an extra charge, or you can buy fruit directly from the farm.
Gunma has rich soil, clean rivers, and long hours of sunlight, making the region ideal for growing fruit. There are orchards and farms across Gunma, from Minakami and Numata in the mountainous north, to Maebashi and Takasaki on the southern plains.
Numata area has a dramatic drop in temperature from day to night, making it ideal for growing fruits including cherries, blueberries, plums, peaches, grapes, apples, persimmons, and strawberries. Many farms and orchards in the area, such as Kajitsu no Sato Harada Farm, offer fruit picking and sell their own products, including fruit cakes and juices.
Fruit picking farms also dot Minakami and, at various times of year, you can pick cherries, blueberries, plums, grapes, apples, and strawberries. Several orchards and strawberry farms can be found near Takuminosato, which make a convenient place to stop off on the way from Jomo-Kogen Station to Sarugakyo Onsen.
There are a number of orchards near Mt. Haruna in Takasaki, and the area along National Route 406 in Haruna is known locally as the Haruna Fruit Highway. You can buy directly from the growers at farm stands along the road, and try fruit picking at the nearby farms. The main fruits grown in Haruna are Japanese pears, plums, peaches, and blueberries.
The varied climate and geography of Gunma mean that visitors can enjoy fresh fruits in all seasons. Winter and spring bring a long strawberry season, with the bonus of beautiful cherry blossoms emerging across the prefecture. Summer heralds large crops of cherries, blueberries, peaches, and plums. Fall is the perfect season for apples, grapes, and Japanese pears (nashi).
Gunma gets long hours of sunshine even in winter, creating ideal conditions for growing fruit. Strawberries grow in climate-controlled greenhouses, so visitors can comfortably pick fruit through winter.
You can find Gunma fruit in stores in Tokyo and its surroundings. However, some varieties are only available locally, so visiting an orchard or a farm stand is a great opportunity to try some rare fruit varieties. Yayoihime is a prized strawberry variety in Gunma, characterized by a ruby-red color and a balance of sweetness and acidity. Two-thirds of Yayoihime strawberries are sold directly from farms in Gunma. Blueberries grow in the mountains to the north, where the large temperature difference between night and day helps cultivate sweet berries. Two delicious varieties were developed in Gunma; large, juicy Ohtsubu-boshi have a refreshing, tangy taste, and Amatsubu-boshi have a subtle sweetness. Try Gunma’s own Meigetsu apples for a balance of sweetness and tartness. This highly popular variety is large and yellow, with an orange hue when they've been in direct sunlight. The apples are characterized by their juicy flesh and low acidity.
Orchards and farms are often far from public transport, and are usually best accessed by car or by taxi from the nearest station. Many have farm stands where you can buy locally made produce such as fruit jams, smoothies, sweets, and cakes. Some have restaurants or barbecue facilities as well.
Many farms welcome walk-in visitors, but it is better to check if you need to make an advance reservation. Picking fruit can be surprisingly hot work in any season. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a hat and plenty of water in summer. It’s useful to bring some wet wipes or a handkerchief for cleaning your hands before and after picking.