When you think of Japanese fruits, strawberries or expensive melons may first come to mind, but did you know that peaches are a popular fruit in Japan too? Japanese peaches are known for their big size and round, perfectly plump appearance. When you bite into one, they’re always incredibly sweet and juicy.
But what makes Japanese peaches so special, especially compared to peaches from other countries? In this article, we’ll examine what exactly makes Japanese peaches so special, as well as cover the origin and legend of Japanese peaches, and look into some of the best Japanese peach snacks and drinks you can buy online.
What Is A Japanese Peach & What Makes It Special?
Peaches are originally said to be native to China, but it is suggested that peach seeds have been found in Japan since the end of the Jomon period (~300 BC). However, people did not start eating them until the Edo period. The exact introduction of peaches to Japan is unclear, but they are believed to have originated from China’s Shui Mi Tao (water honey peach).
Japanese peaches are generally larger in size compared to other peaches. In fact, a single Japanese peach usually weighs between 250-300g. Texturewise, the flesh of Japanese peaches is also much softer than Western peaches. The flesh of Japanese peaches is soft and juicy instead of crunchy. Finally, we can’t forget about the elegant appearance of Japanese peaches. White peaches are the predominant peach variety in Japan and are easy to spot because of their iconic blush pink and white colorway. Yellow peaches can also be found in Japan, though they are not nearly as common.
Which Areas in Japan are Famous For Peaches?
Peaches can be found growing throughout Japan, but there are three areas in particular that are primarily well-known for cultivating peaches. Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo is Japan’s largest producer of peaches. The second largest producer of peaches in Japan is Fukushima prefecture. Fukushima is such a big producer of peaches that it is thought to be their prefectural fruit. Finally, Okayama prefecture is without a doubt renowned for being home to the most delicious peaches in Japan. Even though Okayama peach production does not even fall into the top 5 for Japanese peach cultivation, many people tend to think of Okayama when they think of Japanese peaches. The reason may lie in the fact that the legend of Momotaro comes from Okayama (we’ll touch on this a bit later in the article).
How Are Japanese Peaches Grown?
The cultivation of Japanese peaches will depend on the site, but since Okayama peaches are the most famous and have a reputation for being the most delicious in Japan, we will discuss how peaches in Okayama are cultivated.
Okayama peach production sites use what’s called the “bag cultivation” method. This method is the secret not only to the iconic white color of Japanese peaches but also their juicy texture and sweet flavor. Peaches are wrapped in bags by hand while they are still green. This delicate method of individually wrapping the peaches in bags allows their flavors to mature slowly, and for their color to stay mostly white. If exposed to too much sunlight, the peaches will turn too red which will affect their appearance and flavor.
Wrapping the peaches in bags not only prevents the peaches from turning too red, but also protects the peaches from rain, wind, any other kinds of harsh weather, and most importantly, bugs. The bag cultivation method is believed to lead to peaches that are exceedingly beautiful and delicious.
Momotaro – The Legend Of Japanese Peaches
The popularity of the Japanese peach is thought to come from the classic tale, Momotaro. Momotaro is a traditional Japanese folktale about a boy called Momotaro (whose name also means peach boy) who was born inside of a peach. Momotaro grows up to become kind, thoughtful, and strong. He becomes a brave young man who decides to defeat a band of ogres terrorizing the land. He gathers a group of animal companions, like a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, and together, they go on a quest to the ogres' island. It is one of Japan’s most beloved folktales as it highlights friendship and strength, and it originates in Okayama prefecture. The peach is thought to symbolize many important themes in the legendary tale, but the main takeaways are that the peach represents good fortune and heroism.
Different Types Of Japanese Peaches
There are more than 100 different types of peaches grown in Japan. Needless to say, going over each one would be more than just a bit overkill. Instead, we’ll introduce some of the most famous, must-try varieties of peaches that you should look out for when you come to Japan.
The Akatsuki peach is the most widely cultivated type of peach in Japan and they are mostly grown in Fukushima. You’re most likely to come across this peach in supermarkets and see it featured in desserts. Lookswise, the Akatsuki peach has a beautiful appearance with its natural pink blush color. It has a high sugar content of 12-14 brix (a measurement used for testing fruit sweetness) meaning that the peach itself is pretty sweet! The flesh of these peaches is also on the sturdier side, indicating that these peaches are packed with fruit juice and will keep well for more than a few days if stored correctly.
This is probably one of the most, if not the most famous peach varieties in Japan. The Shimizu Hakuto is a white peach native to Okayama prefecture. Shimizu Hakuto peaches stand out from other peaches with their beautiful pale and slightly blush appearance. In fact, the skin of these peaches are so pale that they almost look translucent! Shimizu Hakuto are also thought to be the most sweet and juicy out of all of the Japanese peach varieties. However, Shimizu Hakuto peaches aren’t cheap. A single peach can cost upwards of 5,000 yen per piece!
The Hakuhō peach shares many similarities with the famous Shimizu Hakuto peach, as it is sweet, juicy, and has a luxurious appearance. These peaches are large in size, and the skin turns into a bright pink when exposed to the sun. Hakuhō peaches are cultivated mostly in Yamanashi, Wakayama, and Okayama prefectures.
Ōgontō (Golden Peach)
As the name suggests, the Ōgontō is a yellow peach variety. This type of peach has an outer yellow skin, but when exposed to sunlight, the skin turns red. The flesh of the Ōgontō peach also has a beautiful golden-yellow color. These peaches are thought to have a stronger flavor, aroma, and even sweetness than traditional canned yellow peaches.
How To Pick A Good Japanese Peach
If you find yourself in Japan during the summer months or are lucky enough to find them overseas, chances are you’ll want to try a Japanese peach out for yourself. Since Japanese peaches tend to be a bit pricey, the last thing you would want to do is pick an underwhelming peach. By following a few pieces of advice, you’ll be able to pick the most delicious Japanese peach out for yourself.
Bright color: choose a peach that is bright pink or red in color all around. If the peach has many white spots on it, that is an indicator that the fruit is high in sugar content and will be even sweeter and juicier. Try avoiding choosing peaches that are overly bruised or have many brown spots on them.
Pronounced round shape and large in size: go for a peach that has a nice and symmetrical round shape. The bigger the peach, the more delicious it is thought to be.
Fruity and sweet scent: smell the peach to make sure it has a sweet, peachy scent. Smelling the peach is also a great indicator for predicting if the peach will taste good or not.
How To Eat Japanese Peaches
Peaches can be cut similarly to avocados, in which you slice into the fruit around the seed, twist it, and then pull it apart. Next, you just remove the pit and skin and then slice into pieces.
Note about removing the skin: if you’re new to the world of Japanese fruits, then you may be surprised to know that Japanese always remove the skin of the fruit before eating it. Especially when it comes to peaches though, the skin is quite thick, so removing it definitely leads to a more pleasant peach-eating experience.
Besides removing the skin, the peach should be refrigerated for an hour or two before serving, just to make it even more scrumptious!
Other Ways To Enjoy Japanese Peaches
If you want to try a Japanese peach while you’re visiting Japan but do not want to go through the trouble of going to a supermarket, your next best option would be to find a dessert with fresh peaches on it.
Japanese people love their fruit parfaits, and they do them really well, especially for peaches! Of course, the way the peach parfait is made and the way it looks will depend on the restaurant or cafe, but if you get lucky, you might be able to find a tasty parfait that is topped with a whole peeled and pitted peach!
Cakes or Tarts
If you visit a cake shop or cafe, you’ll be able to find some pretty tasty-looking Japanese peach cakes and tarts! The traditional Japanese shortcake filled with fresh peaches is a common cake you find in cake shops in the summer. Some cafes also offer tarts topped with a whole peach that’s filled with custard cream! Talk about indulgent.
If parfaits, cakes, or tarts, aren’t your thing, you can go for something a bit lighter like peach jelly. This is another common sweet you’ll find in cake shops and cafes, and of course, it’s made with and topped with real peaches, so the flavor really comes through!
Ice Cream or Gelato
Last but certainly not least, you can usually find peach ice cream or gelato in Japan during the summer months. Whether at a convenience store or fancy ice cream shop, you’ll be surprised how much real peach flavor you’ll be able to taste.
Japanese Peach Snacks & Drinks
Even if you can’t make it to Japan in time to enjoy peach season, you can still enjoy the wonderful flavor of Japanese peaches year-round! In this section, we’ll talk about the best Japanese snacks and drinks that are packed with real peach flavor.
This peach jelly snack from Orihiro is made with konjac, a healthy and low-calorie Japanese yam. Containing real Japanese peach juice, this healthy snack is not lacking in authentic peach flavor at all! If you want to try out this nutritious peach jelly for yourself, we offer this snack in 6 pack and drinkable varieties.
Orihiro Konjac Jelly Snack Peach Flavor 120g
For mochi lovers out there, this treat is for you. This is a triple-layered mochi snack from Fujiya and the center is filled with real peach that’s bursting with flavor. The outermost mochi layer is also peach-flavored, so you get double peach action.
Nihonbashi Kabou Jelly Filled Mochi Snack Fujiya Nectar Peach Flavor 100g (Pack of 5)
If you’re looking for a fruity snack that contains real Japanese peach flavor and that’s also packed with skin-nourishing benefits, then the Shiseido Parlour Beauty Princess Fruit Jelly Drinks are the perfect choice. These jelly cups come in two flavors; peach rose and alphonso mango. The peach-flavored jelly is made with Japanese peaches that come from Nagano prefecture, which has the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Each jelly cup also contains 1000mg of collagen peptides and 35mg of hyaluronic acid!
Shiseido Parlour Beauty Princess Fruit Jelly Drink Set 7 Cups
This peach drink from Nectar is the perfect option for white peach lovers. Not only is the peach juice of this drink white peach-flavored, but it also contains real pieces of Japanese white peaches. Needless to say, this drink is bursting with Japanese peach flavor.
Fujiya Nectar Peach Beverage Crushed White Peach Drink 380ml
If you love the aroma of peaches but are looking for a drink that isn’t necessarily sweet, then this white peach oolong tea from Mitsui is the choice for you. Real white peach has been infused into the oolong tea leaves to provide a unique fruity aroma. The tea also contains rose petals to add a floral essence.
Mitsui Meicha Oolong Tea White Peach Flavor 10 Tea Bags
Have you tried Japanese peaches before? If not, did we convince you to want to try one? Let us know your thoughts about Japanese peaches in the comments below.