Imagine yourself walking through lines over lines of ripe, red, juicy strawberries, eating here and there one of the sweet fruits while being warmed by the sun…
…sounds too good to be true? I thought so, too, until I went for my very first Ichigo-gari in Chiba.
Ichigo-gari is the Japanese term for strawberry picking and it is everything one can wish for (that is if you like strawberries). Picking season is from January till mid-May and there are a lot of places all over Japan, where you can pick strawberries. The concept is pretty simple. You drive to a strawberry farm, pay about 1500 Yen (～$14) and can eat as much as you want to in 30 minutes. Since strawberry picking is very popular, you should only make sure, that you come on time.
Because we had to pick up the rental car first and then stopped at Umihotaru (an amazing rest stop along the expressway) we arrived at the place we had looked up on the internet around noon. Which, obviously was way too late, because we were told the picking ended there at 9 am and people had been lining up since 6 am. Fortunately Chiba, which ranked No. 1 of the strawberry picking spots this year, has several more places and we got lucky at the next one we chose.
The Ichinomiya Kankou Ichigo Kumiai has ten different kinds of strawberries you can taste, though unfortunately not the black strawberries that the other farm would have had.
In the beginning, we thought, that 30 minutes is way too short to fully enjoy the fruits, especially because none of us had eaten breakfast. But as it turns out, you actually can’t eat only so many strawberries before you feel awfully full, and to reach this point didn’t even take us 30 minutes.
It’s very popular here to eat strawberries with a milk creme and at the beginning, we got a little plastic container with two parts, one for the stems of the strawberries and the other filled with milk creme. The only thing that could have made this experience better is wet towels. Since the strawberries are so big and ripe and juicy, your hands get sticky fast.
Walking through the lines, tasting here and there, being warmed by the sun and hearing the bees buzzing around the flowers, was such a feel good experience and well worth the trip from Yokohama to Chiba. Highly recommended for anyone who’s in Japan in strawberry picking season.