Apples were first cultivated in Hokkaido in 1869 when a German trader by the name of Gaerthner began fruit cultivation along with grapes in Nanae Town in Southern Hokkaido. Later in 1873 the Hokkaido Government introduced 75 species of apple seedlings from the United States, marking the start of full-fledged apple cultivation. These varieties included Ralls Janet, Jonathan, and American Summer Pearmain, which would become the foundation for domestically grown apples.
Hokkaido has an ideal climate for growing apples, so the introduced seedlings thrived and were used to develop new varieties and breed various others. Hokkaido-grown apples are noteworthy because of the sheer number of varieties that can be grown here. Today, apples account for one of largest acreage of any fruit grown in Hokkaido and the prefecture stands as the seventh largest in Japan in terms of shipment volume.
Apples are grown throughout Hokkaido, with the main producing areas Yoichi Town, Nanae Town, Sobetsu Town and Niki Town.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Yoichi Town, Nanae Town, Sobetsu Town, Niki Town, Mashike Town, Fukagawa City, Asahikawa City, Takikawa City, Iwamizawa City
Apples in Hokkaido feature vibrant colors and high sugar content because of the large temperature changes between day and night. They are also known for their tightly packed flesh and crunchy texture. The tartness and sweetness differs depending on the variety and the harvest typically is prolonged, making it possible to visit a single growing area and be able to taste various types of apples. There are also many places in the prefecture where growers sell apples directly to the public, providing the opportunity for visitors to travel around in search of the best tasting apple.
Nearly all of the apples grown in Japan are unwaxed, so they can be eaten fresh from the tree after a thorough wash. Apples here have a sticky surface because they use substance to protect the skin of ripe apples. This is an edible substance.
Harvest times differ based on the variety, with the earliest being mid-September and the latest November, and provide a prolonged harvest season for all to enjoy. Apples also are easily stored, so they are shipped to markets up to around March.