Unlike in Europe, where strawberries are often harvested in late spring to summer, and the United States (mid to late spring), Japan’s strawberry season starts in the middle of winter, often going from December through to May. Japan cultivates some of the best strawberries in the world. Sweeter, juicer and bigger than anywhere else. In some cases, strawberries can go for up to ¥50,000.
Head into any convenience store or supermarket after New Year and you can find a variety of strawberry-flavored sweet treats. These are all delicious, but for perfect fresh strawberries it’s best to go right to the source.
Strawberry picking is a wonderful treat and makes for a great trip. Plus, you don’t have to venture out too far. There are some great options near the capital, plus one field within its 23 wards. In most cases, you have 30 minutes to wander around the greenhouse to pick and eat as much of the fruit as you can fit in your stomach. Though that may not seem like a huge amount of time, trust us, it’s plenty. You also have a bowl to fill up which you can take back to a designated area to eat the strawberries.
Pre-pandemic visitors were free to just wander, pick and eat as they felt like, but with Japan still taking special measures, today you might be expected to wear a glove to pick the strawberries.
Often, these farms will offer you a little container of condensed milk, or the option of buying some that you can dip your strawberries in to make them even sweeter. As you wander through the rows of strawberries, you may find each aisle labeled differently. That is because one farm can grow multiple variants that have different levels of sweetness, allowing you to taste and compare.
The strawberries hang over the rows they are planted in, like bright red, and in some cases absolutely humongous, jewels. It may come as a shock to you when you find a strawberry that fills the entire palm of your hand, one that can take up to six bites to finish. There really is no beating picking them straight off the stem and eating them right there and then.
Here are four farms that offer strawberry picking within easy access from Tokyo.
Setagaya Strawberry Field
Setagaya Strawberry Field is the only strawberry farm within the 23 Tokyo wards. Owner Ryuichi Hirota wants it to be a more spiritual experience for visitors, not just enriching their stomachs but their souls. To do so, they have created a little mascot that is featured throughout the space as well as music that is inspired by the process of strawberry cultivation.
You must book a time to visit. Reservations can be made up to 8am on the day you plan to go. Adults pay ¥3,000 for 30 minutes and it is ¥2,500 for children aged 2 to elementary school age. The price includes condensed milk. It takes roughly one hour from Tokyo Station.
Kawagoe Strawberry Farm Sujino
For a great day trip, head to Kawagoe Strawberry Farm Sujino. A short walk from Edo Period Street known as the Warehouse District or Little Edo, this farm is a great way to start the day before heading off to do some sightseeing. It is run by the Sujinos, who welcome visitors to pick from four different varieties of strawberries.
Speaking to Hiroki Sujino, he tells us how he strives to create a good experience, “I want the customers who come here to enjoy the fresh strawberries that they cannot enjoy at the store.” He strives to cultivate sweeter and sweeter strawberries each year. “This year they are the sweetest they have ever been, and next year they will be even sweeter. And the year after that, even sweeter,” he says.
The farm operates on a first come, first served basis. During peak months you can find long queues forming, so it’s best to get there as early as possible. Please note, prices can differ. The trip takes roughly one hour, 40 minutes from Tokyo Station to the farm.
Sayama Berry Farm
The biggest on our list of farms for strawberry picking near Tokyo, Sayama Berry Farm grows a lot more than just strawberries on its 80,000-metre-square plot of land. It was founded in the Edo Period (1603-1867) and has continued on for 18 generations. This farm is also located not too far away from Kawagoe’s Little Edo, making it another great destination for a full day out.
On top of strawberry picking, visitors can also head to the blueberry fields or even pick shiitake mushrooms. Check the farm’s seasonal calendar for the best time to go for different produce. Though you don’t have to make a reservation here, it is advisable given its popularity. It will take you roughly two hours to get here from Tokyo Station.
Yokohama Strawberry Park
Yokohama Strawberry Park is less of a farm and more of a theme park. The strawberries receive care and attention from individuals with special needs who are overseen by strawberry cultivation experts. The building is one of the prettier ones, painted pink inside, with plenty of Instagrammable spots around, including a giant strawberry statue that you can stand next to.
Currently, it is only available to visit on weekends and public holidays. However, this is one of the few farms that is open year-round, so you’ll have many chances to visit. The park is roughly one hour from Tokyo Station.