Tidings of Autumn Fruits
In Japan, fruits that line storefronts remind us of the seasons. As the season changes from summer to autumn, every fruit bears a story. On a remote southern island, merchants gather at a fruit store enjoying a chat. They bring seasonal flavors from their own fields. In the north, fields of akebia are plenty. A local unique custom involves sending the souls of the deceased on an akebia boat. In this episode of Seasoning the Seasons, join us on a journey of fruits from all corners of Japan.

A 20th Century Pear

Yurihama, Tottori Prefecture, is a pear-growing region. One pear orchard is located on the hills surrounding Lake Togo. Japanese pears are characterized by their round shape and crispy texture. Each variety has its own taste, but one pear stands out for its refreshing tartness. The variety "Nijusseiki," means "20th century." Discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, this variety was named "20th Century" in the hope that it would become the king fruit of the new century.

The Town that Loves Chestnuts

Nakatsugawa in Gifu Prefecture is an old inn town along the highway connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. It has long been known for its chestnut production. "Kuri-kinton" is a mashed chestnut sweets eaten during New Year's in Japan. But in Nakatsugawa, the kuri-kinton is a little different: the chestnut is hollowed out and sweetened and reshaped into a chestnut. September 9th is the Choyo Festival in Japan which celebrates good harvests and longevity. In Nakatsugawa, it is called the Chestnut Festival, and confectioners gather to pray for a bountiful harvest and prosperous business.

The Grapes Held by Buddha

Katsunuma in Yamanashi Prefecture, with its sandy soil, is not suitable for growing rice. Instead, grapes grown on the hillsides have supported the lives of the locals. Daizenji Temple was founded about 1,300 years ago by the monk Gyoki. Its enshrined deity, Yakushi Nyorai or Medicine Buddha, which is unveiled only once every five years, holds a bunch of grapes in its hand. Legend has it that the monk Gyoki brought grapes to this area after they were introduced from the Asian Continent together with Buddhism.