Fresh apricots are once again in season, and Chikuma City (just south of Nagano City) is Japan’s largest grower of apricots.
Called “anzu” in Japanese, apricots here actually come in an amazing array of varieties, from the tart heritage varieties to newcomers from North America such as the sweeter “harcot” variety.
Chikuma City’s “Mori” district is known as “Anzu no Sato” (Apricot Village). On the other side of the Chikuma River, just downriver from onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, is Kyohoen‘s orchard. I stopped by the other day and the owner, Takamatsu-san, was in a great mood as apparently this year is a bumper crop. The growers are especially thankful, as last year many of the trees were damaged by frost during the blossom season resulting in a decreased yield.
Besides coming to an orchard and picking (and tasting!) fresh apricots straight from the tree, apricot jam making activities are also available. The season should continue through mid-July.