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Great Escapes Grape Hunting
(Entered Sep. 12, 2009)
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The Japanese don't actually pick fruit, they hunt it. Momo-gari (peach hunting), mikan-gari (orange hunting), ichigo-gari (strawberry hunting), etc, the -gari ending actually means 'to hunt' and stems from days long past when fruit was more dangerous and fought back.
Grape hunting season is just finishing up, so if you're still thinking of slaying a few bunches for the dinner table you'd better hurry up and get out there.
With the help of Kumi's friend Junko, and her daughter Noa, Kumi and I tracked some grapes down about 20 minutes out from Urawa station in Saitama.

grape hunting (picking) red on the vine

The farm we went to was overwhelmingly a black (kyoho) grape farm, with a few red grape trees thrown in. No green grapes unfortunately, they'd already been hunted to extinction.
So how does it work? Well each farm might have different rules, but how it works here is you just head on into the orchard with a basket and a pair of scissors, cut however many grape bunches you want, theyn pay for it all on the way out. Actually they were remarkably cheap compared to the supermarket, one bunch costing around 400 yen.

grape hunting (picking) junko and noa

These days fruit in Japan is coddled. You'd think that after a million years or so the plants would've figured things out by now, but no, they need help. Just like we humans can't live with our TVs, jeans and airconditioners, fruit in Japan needs to be wrapped in paper and plastic. If you did otherwise who knows what would happen. Your fruit would probably grow up to be psychopathic or suicidal or something.

grape hunting (picking) kumi

Paper bags over the grapes come with a small see through 'window' of plastic. Why? So that you can look your grapes in the eye before you spear them through the heart of course! It was a good thing actually, because a large portion of the grapes on the vine were already rotting. As we headed into the orchard, we heard one older dude complaining to a staff memeber that half the grapes he picked had already gone bad. We weren't exactly overwhelmed by confidence heading in, and many searches through the plastic barrier showed that more than half of all the grape bunches were waaaay past their prime. Have you ever smelled rotting grapes? Not pretty.... We gamely searched for a few fresh bunches and ended up plucking four of them, two red and two black. I was initially worried about the quality of grapes on a farm where the default seems to be moldy and rotten, but I needn't have worried, they were delicious!

grape hunting (picking) mike

After we were done the hunting part, we washed our kill, and our hands in a tap and set too. Kumi and I managed to eat two whole bunches between us and wanted more. The shop had left out free pear slices on the counter so we polished those off too.

grape hunting (picking) washed

Then we headed back to Urawa station and went to a ramen restaurant. One cannot live on fruit alone!



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