Jan 11, 2018

Strawberry Matsuri

Strawberry everything is available during winter in Japan, sometimes in large displays labeled 'Strawberry Festa' or something similar. Not only strawberry shortcake for Christmas, but also strawberry mochi (ichigo daifuku), wine and chu-hi, strawberry chocolates, strawberry Tohato caramel corn and popcorn, strawberry ice cream, strawberry soda and alcohol... It's great, if you like strawberry flavor, but real strawberries are also so good!

Strawberries are grown through winter in greenhouses in Japan from November until May or June, so there are plenty for your Christmas cake. As spring arrives, the prices for fresh strawberries go down, and the need for pink or red things increase. Thus the strawberry flavor everything you can think of.

Growing up in the US, strawberries were grown nearby, but I had no concept of different kinds of strawberries until living in Japan. The two popular kinds of strawberries and regions that I know of are Tochiotome grown in Tochigi Prefecture and the huge Amaou (sweet king) in Fukuoka Prefecture (where I live).

Amaou strawberry flavored sweets are available all over Fukuoka Prefecture as omiyage. From giant Amaou Pocky and KitKats to Amaou 'Nanban Ourai' cakes they can be found in bigger stations in the prefecture. We even have Amaou 'Ilohas' bottled water, for a steeper price, of course.

Other varieties include Hatsukoi no Kaori - the lovely white strawberries used for fancy deserts. There are tons more and more varieties being introduced all the time. Several varieties are available if you go strawberry picking, which we hope to do in the spring.

Strawberry Matsuri photo

Strawberry Kinokoyama

As for those strawberry snacks, here are some yummy seasonal strawberry snacks I've seen and tried this season. Look chocolates had a seasonal flavor called 'Four Kinds of Strawberry' featuring some of the strawberry varieties. 

Strawberry Matsuri photoSpecial white chocolate and strawberry Apollos

Strawberry Matsuri photo

Strawberry parfait

This was 280 yen at Sushirou and really sweet. It had cut frozen strawberries on top and strawberry and vanilla ice cream. I split it with my husband who especially liked the shortcake part at the bottom.

Strawberry Matsuri photo

Strawberry Pocky and strong (5 times) strawberry Apollos.

Apollos are my favorite Japanese snack I think. These are super good because the chocolate is darker and the strawberry flavor is stronger. It's such a nice combination.

Strawberry Matsuri photo

Strawberry 'Cheese Stick' (strawberry cheesecake) ice cream and locally made Amaou ice cream by Morinaga

These were both just okay to me, but my husband loved them. The cheesecake had more of a strawberry flavor than a cheesecake flavor, but not bad. It says it has three varieties of strawberries used. The Amaou ice cream reminded me of Cool Whip – it's very airy and soft, with a delicate strawberry flavor from the mixed in pieces of Amaou strawberry.

Strawberry Matsuri photo

Strawberry Alfort

I'm usually happy with Alfort and this flavor wasn't a disappointment either. The smell is strong and reminds me of a kids cereal with berry flavor, like Crunch Berries. These aren't as cheap as the boxes of Alfort you can find (12 pieces for less than 100 yen) because they're individually wrapped. A bag with 15 pieces was about 250 yen. Still they are easy to share with others that way.

Also recommended is anything strange like strawberry Cheetos or Tohato which is available from time to time (and also make good gifts to share with family back home). Strawberry sours or chu-hi are also always welcome during the winter. Kampai!

What variety of strawberry grows in your area? Have you tried any great strawberry flavored snacks this winter?



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