As though Japan hasn’t enthralled us with its quirky cuisines, nostalgic animes, and breathtaking landscapes — here comes another reason to love the country even further. We introduce you to the pink grapes in Japan, a delightful and delicious reminder that it is more than just all the things you know and love about the nation.
Better known as Koshu grapes, these delicious pink berries originate in the Yamanashi Prefecture southwest of Tokyo. Think of it as the fruit counterpart of the Japanese cherry blossoms. But unlike these famed florals, Koshu grapes make for great gastronomic treats from Japan!
How these pink grapes in Japan came to be
Koshu grapes are hybrid berries that resulted from the mixture of the European Vitis vinifera and East Asian Vitis species. The grape got its name from the original designation of Yamanashi, which primarily grows the fruit.
“Many grape varieties cultivated in Japan today were first introduced from the West around the Meiji period (1868–1912),” says the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF). “In contrast, Koshu is an older variety whose cultivation in Japan can be traced back to the Nara period (710–794).”
In a 2013 study, Japan’s National Research Institute of Brewing, along with United States researchers, found that 70% of the grapes’ DNA matched with those of Vitis vinifera. The remaining 30% constitutes the Vitis. “From these results, we know that European varieties of grape traveled along the Silk Road and hybridized with wild East Asian grape varieties in China before reaching Japan,” adds the MAFF.
Why they’re pink and how they’re best experienced
Simply put, Koshu grapes have a pink colour because of the low amount of Anthocyanins, the pigment responsible for giving flowers and plants darker shades (e.g. black and red berries).
Koshu grapes were once a mere table fruit. But now, locals mainly use them to make Koshu wine, which is one of Yamanashi’s most treasured products. With its delicate, polished taste that’s low in alcohol, Koshu wine goes well with most Japanese dishes. These include fresh seafood, sushi, and tempura.
As Japan’s wine capital (not just the home of Mount Fuji), Yamanashi has an amazing selection of vineyards and wineries. You can see the pink grapes in Japan between August and October, which is the Japanese prefecture’s grape season. The best way to travel to Yamanashi from Tokyo is by taking a train from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko. The travel time is around 90 minutes.
Featured image credit: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan | Official Facebook Page