Beginning with Christmas Cake in December, winter is the ultimate strawberry season in Japan. Before Valentine’s Day rolls around, supermarkets will be filled with variations of the fruit grown that with the advent of green houses has come to be a favorite of the winter season.
If you visit a fruit specialty store, you’ll see range and variation of Japanese strawberries. Among the most popular varieties are tochiotome, (とちおとめ) amaou あまおう (an acronym of akai, marui, ookii, umai 赤い・丸い・大きい・うまい, meaning red, round, big, and delicious) and benihoppe 紅ほっぺ (which translates to crimson cheeks). Tochigi, Fukuoka, and Hokkaido are just a few of the prefectures renowned for their strawberries.
There delectable treats can be eaten in so many different ways: in strawberry shortcake, drizzled in condensed milk, in parfaits, made into sandwiches (yes, fruit sandwiches are totally a dessert here!)
But our favorite way to eat strawberries at Get Around, is in daifuku 大福. You’ve probably heard of mochi, which in recent years has become a favorite as a dessert topping on things like frozen yogurt outside of Japan. Daifuku is a dessert where a pouch of soft mochi is filled with a variety of things, though the classic pairing is sweetened red bean paste. The strawberry daifuku is thought to have come onto the scene in the mid-80s, and while there’s record of different shops selling the ichigo around this time in Mie and in Tokyo, the origin is not definitive.
Many of the traditional and new wave wagashi stores offer up flashy variations of this strawberry treat. Now in addition to red bean and white bean (respectively called an あん、and shiro-an 白あん), ichigo daifuku filled with whipped cream or sponge cake is readily available. And there are options for every price range and palette, you’ll find ichigo daifuku in supermarkets, high end department stores, and convenience stores.
Here are a few examples to get you started on your ichigo daifuku journey.
Oosumi Tamaya Specialty Store
Oosumi Tamaya is a wagashi shop that is known for its careful selection of suppliers. For 94 years, this family business has assembled the finest ingredients from different regions, and the desserts served here are a true celebration of Japanese quality. According to their site, the red adzuki beans come from farmers in Hokkaido and Kyoto, the rice flour from Miyazaki, and the water from natural onsens in Nigata. As you can see in the picture above, Oosumi Tamaya has crushed beans embedded in the mochi itself. The price comes in at 249JPY per piece.
Yamazaki An Ichigo Daifuku
This daifuku can be found in supermarkets everywhere as well as in in Yamazaki Pan convenience stores. One of the most affordable daifuku you can find, at supermarkets the item will cost about 100JPY, while at convenience stores, it will come in slightly more expensive at about 130JPY. This is a recommendation for those who don’t mind red bean and enjoy the extra sweetness. The strawberries used here are slightly tart, and the red bean is made quite sweet to balance that out.
This item can be found chilling in the sweets section in Lawson, and for those who are big fans of the chocolate and strawberry combination, this is a big recommendation. Filled with white chocolate ganache, the daifuku also contains one large juicy strawberry to complement the creamy ganache, and is blanketed with a soft and stretchy sheet of mochi. As you can see, the price of 1 comes in at 180JPY after tax which is less expensive than specialty stores, but not the cheapest.
New Generation Specialty Store
Get Around Favorite: Ichigo Warabi
And now we’ve arrived at our top ranking pick! Sanshodo’s Ichigo Warabi is a marriage between two different classic desserts. Warabi mochi is a delicate sweet mochi with a jelly-like texture, often eaten with sweet kinako powder and a molasses-like syrup called kuromitsu. In the Ichigo Warabi, a blanket of sweet powdered warabi covers an enormous XL strawberry and a thin layer of smooth red bean paste. This is by far the most delicate of our featured daifuku…and unfortunately, the most expensive… You can order 3 online for 1620JPY, meaning each piece is slightly over 500JPY. (Note, this does not include shipping.) While it may cost almost double some of our other features, the Ichigo Warabi is a true experience, and in spite of the price, it might have you coming back for a second order!