Wakayama Prefecture’s highly-prized mikan (orange) is the Shimotsu mikan. Grown all over Shimotsu-cho, these oranges are a celebrated local delicacy and are very much tied to the social and cultural values. It is said that the Shimotsu tree was discovered by a brave man who crossed oceans in search of medicine for his ailing master. Upon finding the tree, he brought back the fruit and planted it in Shimotsu-cho.
Back in the day, mikans were used for medicinal purposes and today, it is an essential part of the Japanese culture. “We grew up with mikan and it is a vital part of our lives,” says a local farmer. Shimotsu mikans are grown in the perfect climate, planted on and around the steep Wakayama hills facing the sea. These carefully-cultivated citrus uses labor-intensive and time-tested methods developed by the Japanese farmers.
Their ripening procedure is one that has been in practice for about 300 years. Mikans that are harvested are stored for two to three months in kura, a mud-walled cellar; this will help to preserve the mikan, allowing it to ripen with a great balance of sweet and sour.
Kura are normally located around the orchard and used during the winter months. This unique method of storing is so rare that it is prevalent in only four areas in Japan. “It is a long and tedious process where every step of the kura construction is executed with great precision and every detail accounted for without innovation to ensure perfection of Shimotsu mikan,” says the marketing manager of Nagamine Agricultural Cooperative. Wakayama produces 23,000 tons of Shimotsu mikan annually making the prefecture one of the largest orange producers in Japan.
Studies have shown that the Shimotsu mikan can help regulate blood pressure, increase metabolic rate, and provide a generous amount of Vitamin C. These oranges popularizes it as one of the best in Wakayama. Shimotsu mikan gained international recognition for its nutritiously delicious blend of sweet and sour juice, firm yet smooth texture, and easy-to-peel rind.
1. SHIMOTSU, WAKAYAMA
Located at the most southern part of Honshu Island (Mainland of Japan) is a well known land surrounded by extravagant hills, the peaceful ocean, and dense green forests. A getaway for any nature lover.
2. FRESHLY HAND PICKED
The Shimotsu mikan is individually hand picked by local farmers.
3. THE FIRST MIKAN TREE
This bitter citrus originated from the Kitsumoto Shrine, the origin of Wakayama’s local customs and beliefs. Once used for medicinal purposes, it is now enjoyed as a local delicacy.
4. SHIMOTSU MIKAN
The Shimotsu mikan is the best mikan of Wakayama, packed with a nutritiously delicious blend of sweet and sour juice.
The mud-walled cellars are built around the orchard during winter and is prevalent only in Japan.