Tomatoes are originally from the highlands of the Andes Mountains in South America, which means they do not particularly like Japan’s hot and humid summers. Therefore, Hokkaido’s cool climate is ideal for growing tomatoes from summer to fall. Hokkaido supplies some of the highest quality tomatoes to markets and stores across Japan. over the past 20 years Hokkaido’s tomato yield has nearly doubled, and today the prefecture ranks as Japan’s second largest producer.
The reason why tomatoes are red is because they contain a large amount of lycopene, which is one type of carotenoid pigment. Lycopene is known for its strong anti-oxidant action and tomatoes that are exposed to more sunlight contain a larger amount of lycopene. Tomatoes also contain a large amount of vitamin C, beta carotene, and potassium, as well as glutamic acid, known for its taste. This taste is augmented when tomatoes are eaten together with meat or seafood. Tomatoes are, of course, delicious when eaten raw, too, but they are also widely used in simmered dishes as well.
Tomatoes are primarily grown in the Hidaka, Kamikawa, Shiribeshi, Sorachi and Oshima areas of Hokkaido. Among these, Biratori Town accounts for about 20% of all the tomatoes grown in Hokkaido.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Biratori Town, Biei Town, Yoichi Town, Hokuto City, Niki Town, Mukawa Town, Naganuma Town, Mori Town, Hidaka Town, Date City
Biratori Town in Hidaka is the largest tomato growing area in the prefecture. The town has pristine brooks and rivers and extremely fertile soil. The town also has plenty of sunlight from March to April when tomato seedlings are being grown, while in the summer it has a cool climate perfect for tomatoes. Not only this, research has been conducted around the town and used to establish new tomato cultivation methods. Growing high quality tomatoes requires a great deal of daily care and attention, including removing extra buds, ensuring tomato plants grow as vines, and cutting back leaves to provide more sunshine. Biratori Town has created a manual for tomato growing and has established a system to help develop new tomato farmers. In recent years, the number of tomato varieties continues to increase and other growing areas, too, are focusing on unique ways of growing these many varieties.
Niki Town, a major grower of mini tomatoes, has thoroughly analyzed diversifying market needs and now cultivates a number of high quality summer and fall varieties that typically run in short supply in the prefecture. The town also continues to test a number of new varieties in order to supply tomatoes that fit the needs of the time.
Tomatoes are primarily grown between March and November, with most cultivated in greenhouses. The harvest begins in May and peaks between June and October.