Happy Strawberry Day: 5 Must-Try Varieties of Strawberries in Japan

Happy Strawberry Day: 5 Must-Try Varieties of Strawberries in Japan

Did you know that 15 January is Strawberry Day (イチゴの日 Ichigo-no-hi) in Japan? It comes from a word play on the date (“ichi” = one and “go” = five) and the word for strawberry (苺 ichigo) in Japanese. Indeed, Japanese strawberries are well-renowned for their sweetness, and deserving of a special day of their own. Beloved and enjoyed not only by the Japanese, but also by a lot of people around Asia, in recent years, many tourists look forward to strawberry-picking on their travels to Japan. 

In Japan, strawberries are usually grown in greenhouses, enabling them to be enjoyed for almost half a year, as they can be picked from December to early May. According to Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (農林水産省 Nōrinsuisanshō), Japan has over a whopping 312 varieties of strawberries!

While we cannot list all 300+ varieties of Japan’s strawberries, in preparation for Strawberry Day, let’s take a closer look at four of the main strawberry varieties, plus take a peek at the rare white strawberries!

 

① Amao あまおう

Main area of production: Fukuoka Prefecture
Sugar content: ~11%
Price per packet: ¥600¥1,000

Amao strawberries at a supermarket
Amao at a supermarket | Photo by Carissa Loh

Probably one of the most famous varieties of Japanese strawberries, Amao, also known as Amaou (あまおう Amaō), is notorious for its large size. Registered as a strawberry variety in 2005, Amao strawberries are only cultivated in Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県), and its name is said to have come from abbreviating “Akai, MArui, Ookii, Umai” (赤い、丸い、大きい、うまい), which means “red, round, large, tasty”. Another meaning of the name is “King of Sweetness” as “ama” (甘) means “sweet”, while “ou” (王) means “king”.

Different shapes of amao strawberries
Amao strawberries can come in uniform shapes, as well as large, unique shapes | Photo by ぱくたそ

Not just visibly much larger than other common varieties of strawberries in the market, Amao strawberries also have a very strong strawberry flavour, with mild acidity (low on the sour scale), making it one of the hot favourites around the country. Due to its unbeatable popularity and big size, Amao is also known as the “King of Strawberries”.

Regular strawberries are around 15g each, but on average Amao are at least 20g, with larger ones around 3040g each. Up until 2022 when the record was broken, the World’s Heaviest Strawberry, as registered in the Guinness World Records, was a 250g Amao strawberry.

While its harvest season lasts from November to late May, the best time to enjoy delicious Amao is said to be between March and early April. 

 

② Sagahonoka さがほのか

Main area of production: Saga Prefecture
Sugar content: 1012%
Price per packet: ¥500¥600

Sagahonoka strawberries in a strawberry farm
Sagahonoka strawberry farm | Photo by photoAC

Next up, we have the juicy Sagahonoka (さがほのか), which was registered as a strawberry variety in 2003. Mainly farmed in Saga Prefecture (佐賀県) on the island of Kyushu, Sagahonoka strawberries are known for their juiciness and well-defined conical shape, low acidity and strong sweetness. 

 

Sagahonoka strawberries
Saganohoka are bright red with a conical shape | Photo by ぱくたそ

Due to its beautiful conical shape and shiny red colour, combined with a hard exterior and good shelf life, Sagahonoka strawberries are often used for decorating cakes.

The harvest period for Sagahonoka is between December and late May, but the best time to enjoy picking them is said to be in March.

 

③ Tochiotome とちおとめ

Main area of production: Tochigi Prefecture
Sugar content: 1013%
Price per packet: ¥300¥500

Tochiotome strawberries in the supermarket
Tochiotome at a supermarket | Photo by Carissa Loh

Hailing from Tochigi Prefecture (栃木県), we have Tochiotome (とちおとめ), the strawberry variety with the highest production yield in Japan. Its name comes from combining “Tochigi” and “Otome” (乙女 maiden), as the strawberries are said to have a feminine appearance. First registered as a strawberry variety almost 30 years ago in 1996, its popularity has not waned, and still remains high. 

 

How to read strawberries? Unripe tochiotome with a white top vs. ripe tochitome which is red all around
Unripe Tochiotome with white tops (left) versus ripe Tochiotome that are a uniform red all over (right) | Photo by photoAC

Did you know? Over 90% of the strawberries grown in Tochigi Prefecture are of the Tochiotome variety. Some recognisable characteristics of Tochiotome are its dark red exterior, bright pink flesh, and well-balanced flavour profile: juicy, with a high sugar content and the right amount of acidity.

Although Tochiotome can be harvested from late November to late May, the best time to enjoy picking them at a farm is said to be between February and April.

 

 

④ Beni Hoppe 紅ほっぺ

Main area of production: Shizuoka Prefecture
Sugar content: 1213%
Price per packet: ¥400¥700

Small vs. medium-sized beni hoppe strawberries
Small versus medium-sized Benihoppe | Photo by ぱくたそ

Rounding up the list of the four most common strawberry varieties in Japan is Benihoppe (紅ほっぺ), which has a name that literally means “red cheeks”. Mainly grown in Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県), Benihoppe was registered as a strawberry variety in 2002. Aside from Shizuoka, it is also grown in Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県), Aichi Prefecture (愛知県), and various prefectures in Kyushu.

 

Size difference between Sagahonoka, Tochiotome, Benihoppe
Left to right: Sagahonoka, Tochiotome, Benihoppe | Photo by ぱくたそ

Benihoppe strawberries are on the larger side (though not as large as Amao), with a shiny red exterior, high sugar content, and strong acidity. If you enjoy sweet strawberries with a touch of sourness, this is the variety for you.

The harvest season for Benihoppe lasts from December to May, but the best time to pick them in-person is said to be between March and April, when the strawberries reach their peak sweetness.

 

⑤ White Strawberries

White strawberries are white on the inside - not to be confused with unripe strawberries!
White strawberries come in a range of colours
| Photo by photoAC

Finally, while not a single variety, some of the rarest varieties of strawberries you can find are the white strawberries (白い苺 shiroi ichigo). Not to be mistaken for unripe strawberries which later turn red, white strawberries have a uniform colour, and are much paler than the regular red strawberries. The colour of white strawberries is not just limited to white, but ranges from milky white, to light pink, to ivory, to light orange, depending on the variety. Rather than for everyday eating, these strawberries are more for gifting on special occasions.

 

White strawberries variety
Pearl White (left) and Awayuki (right) strawberries | Photo by photoAC

Some famous varieties of white strawberries include:

  • Shiroi Hoseki (白い宝石) from Saga Prefecture, which has a milky white colour, and is one of the pioneers of white strawberries
  • Awayuki (淡雪) from Saga Prefecture, which has a pale peach colour
  • Pearl White (パールホワイト) from Nara Prefecture (奈良県), which has a pearly white colour
  • Hatsukoi no Kaori from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県), which has a pale pink colour

On average, white strawberries are larger and sweeter than regular strawberries. Due to their pale colour, white strawberries are harder to cultivate than regular strawberries, as blemishes and imperfection are more easily visible. For this reason, it is said that only a small percentage of white strawberries grown make it to the market in packages, contributing to the premium prices of ¥3,000–¥8,000+ per packet.

  

Sweet strawberry treats

With over 300 registered varieties of strawberries in the country, it’s no secret that Japan loves their strawberries. Not only can you easily find a large assortment of strawberry fruit in the supermarkets, but you can also encounter many strawberry confectioneries, candies, and desserts all around Japan.

 

Fresh strawberries

Fresh strawberries in a tub
Fresh strawberries with condensed milk | Photo by photoAC

If you love strawberries, don’t miss out on the experience of picking fresh strawberries at a farm! Many farms have all-you-can-pick-and-eat packages, where you are free to roam the greenhouses to pluck and eat as much as you want within the time limit (usually 30 minutes). A popular way to enjoy freshly-picked strawberries is by dipping them in condensed milk.

 

Ichigo daifuku

Ichigo daifuku are traditional Japanese sweets with strawberries wrapped in mochi
Ichigo daifuku | Photo by photoAC

Aside from the fresh fruit, strawberries can also be enjoyed in a variety of desserts. One of the most common desserts you’ll find strawberries in is ichigo daifuku (苺大福), a Japanese-style dessert where a whole strawberry is covered with red bean paste and mochi. Due to their large size, Amao strawberries are commonly used in ichigo daifuku.

 

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake decorated with huge strawberries on top
Strawberry shortcake is one of the most beloved cakes in Japan | Photo by photoAC

If you have passed by a bakery in Japan, you might have noticed a disproportionately large number of strawberry shortcakes. Strawberry shortcake is not only the default “Christmas cake”, but also a crowd favourite for birthday cakes and anniversary cakes, so you are sure to see them around. As mentioned earlier, Sagahonoka strawberries and Tochiotome strawberries are often used for decorating cakes due to their beautiful appearances and good shelf life.

 

Ichigo ame

Candied strawberries sold at a market
Ichigo ame | Photo by photoAC

Another favourite strawberry dessert, especially among children, is ichigo ame (いちご飴), or candied strawberries. These fresh strawberries on a skewer, coated with a layer of hard sugar, make the perfect sweet treat, and are usually enjoyed from late spring to early summer.

 

Strawberry snacks in JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s “Ichigo Ichie” Omiyage Snack Box” 

Speaking of sweet strawberry treats, have you checked out the strawberry snacks in JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s latest snack box? As a play on the word “ichigo”, you can enjoy three delicious ichigo snacks in January’s “Ichigo Ichie” Omiyage Snack Box—from flavourful strawberry jelly from Fukuoka to soft madeleine filled with strawberry jam from Aomori, you are in for a “berry” sweet indulgence. 

What are you waiting for?! Here's a promo code "ICHIGO10" to get your 2024 started with strawberry-licious goodies from Japan—apply this discount code during checkout and you're all set!

Meet the author

Carissa Loh

Having visited all 47 prefectures of Japan, Carissa's next goal in life is to ride all of Japan's sightseeing trains and climb all its 100 Famous Mountains. Sounds like a dream? Check back in 50 years.

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Get on track with our monthly offerings of exclusive snacks from all over Japan!

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Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes...

Japan celebrates Golden Week between April 29 to May 5
Sue Lynn

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of Japan's most prominent and bustling holiday periods, usually spans from late April to early May...

Dawn Sim Culture

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of...

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉
Sue Lynn

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Carissa Loh Nature

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Than Sakura
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with spring than the beloved cherry blossom (桜 sakura). However, other than these pretty, pink blossoms,...

Carissa Loh Nature

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with...

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in April and May
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of a new beginning in many Japanese literature. | Photo by Dawn Sim   A symbol...

Dawn Sim Spring

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other than the mesmerising cherry blossoms painting the landscape, spring is the best season to experience...

Wendy Ng Food

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festivals in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing with it beautiful flowers, comfortable temperatures, and a time of celebration. While most travellers head...

Carissa Loh Festival

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers from Akita by Kanaeya
Sue Lynn

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as an example, a prefecture where lush landscapes meet premium rice fields. Renowned for its exceptional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as...

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from Takachiho (Winner of JR East Omiyage Grand Prix 2023 - Koshin’etsu Area Prize)
Sue Lynn

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the perfect souvenir or omiyage (お土産) to bring home for your loved ones and colleagues. While...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the...

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival Celebrating Girls’ Day
Sue Lynn

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the Hina Matsuri | ©photoAC Have you ever heard of Japan’s Hina Matsuri (雛祭)? Otherwise known...

Dawn Sim Culture

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the...

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Through The Eyes of Japanese Writers
Sue Lynn

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of literary giants and look no further than Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島), which lies just about 1-2...

Dawn Sim Travel

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of...

Mount Fuji with tea plantation in the foreground
Sue Lynn

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is Japan’s highest mountain, and has become a symbol of the country, recognised worldwide for its...

Carissa Loh Travel

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is...

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in Japan to Meet Feline Friends
Sue Lynn

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have noticed how beloved cats are over there. Think maneki-neko (招き猫) cat figurines that beckon luck,...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have...

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan
Sue Lynn

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated across the globe where presents like chocolates, candies, and flowers are gifted...

Wendy Ng Culture

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day...

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the Izu Peninsula
Sue Lynn

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your loved one, but where to start? Here are our top five picks for romantic dating...

Carissa Loh Travel

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your...

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo”, Cafes, and the Railway Museum
Sue Lynn

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is the gateway to the neighbouring Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県). It is also a stop on more...

JAPANKURU Travel

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is...

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi by Kameya Foods
Sue Lynn

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the Japanese horseradish is a unique spice native to Japan and is a staple in Japanese...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the...

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan and Must-do Activities
Sue Lynn

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in regions lying alongside the Sea of Japan (日本海), otherwise known as Yukiguni (雪国), or Snow...

Dawn Sim Festival

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in...