Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Mrs. Toshiko Otsuka’s Fig Orchard

Mrs. Toshika Otsuka/大塚敏子

Figs have been very popular in Japan for eons.
They were introduced in Japan at the beginning of the Edo Era (17th Century) in Nagasaki (Kyushu Island) from Persia through China.
Interestingly enough the Japanese consume only a little quantity of dry figs that they mainly use in cakes. They prefer their fruit fresh and eat them either as appetizers (with sesame dressing/gomadare) or as dessertfruit.

They are grown inside greenhouses or in open air, depending on the variety and growing method.
Mrs. Otsuka grows hers exclusively inside greenhouses on a total area of 240 tsubo/~750 square meters.

Once again my good friend, Natsuko Koyanagi/小柳奈津子 was on hand to help with introductions.
It was quite a distance away from her usual area as figs are grown only on the right bank of the Abe River due to the needed sun exposure whereas Natsuko lives on the left bank. We knew we had arrived before we discovered the greenhouses as the cloying smell of the figs had wafting around us into our car very quickly!

Mrs. Otsuko grows a single variety called Masui Dofin/マスイドフィン, a Japanese hybrid.
Do you know how the Japanese write “ichijiku” for fig? 無花果/No flower fruit! At least knowing the kanji characters meant I was not going to make the mistake asking when flowers were supposed to bloom!

Her trees are pretty old by Japanese standards (these can live a long time indeed!) as she first planted them 27 years ago. Her orchard is her own supply of cash to the homestead as her husband has his own job. Nevertheless, he gives a hand before leaving to work and after coming back from work. Either he is a tough guy or a loving one! (or both? LOL).

Watering is done through a pipe system snaking over the whole grenhouses.
As for fertilizer, she told me in with almost naive honesty that she asks a specialist every year to check on her orchard and decide what’s best!

I saw quite a few figs I would lay my hands on!
Actually, Mrs. Otsuka explained me that Summer is not so much the right season to really savor them. Although she harvests them everyday and “ship” them to the Cooperative, the best season is the Fall when figs are at their best and do not spoil easily.
As she accepte personal orders, you can be sure I will visit her again in a couple of months!

Aluminum foil sheets are spread on the soil along each row of fig trees not so much to protect the soil but to reflect the sun and provide more exposure and heat. And I can tell you this is sweat work!

Trees are trimmed completely of their branches around January and you can count each year going along the scars left on them!
Fruit bearing branches do have to be supported and are tied with twine to the roof to keep them erect and give as much as vital space as possible to the fruit.

Harvesting is always done in the morning when the temperature is lower. The fruit will keep their umami/balance then. Fruit are calibrated and carefully put into boxes before delivery.

Mrs. Otsuka pointed out an interesting detail: when harvesting one has cto cover herself/himself completely, especially arms an legs as fig leaves are really tough and their rims can cut through your skin if you are not careful!
And one has to constantly clean the soil of fallen leaves as they rot easily!

Greenhouses have to left open on their side for better air circulation, but all openings have to be netted or birds will have a feast!

Certainly learned a lot again and am ready to be taught more!

Mrs. Toshiko Otsuka’s Fig Orchard
Sshizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Fukudagaya, 123-1
Tel.: 054-294-9787
Personal orders accepted

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13 thoughts on “Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Mrs. Toshiko Otsuka’s Fig Orchard”

  1. Hello! I loved the story, thank you. I was wondering if there was some way for me to buy branch clippings of the fig plants? I would really love to add one of these lovely fig plants to my garden.
    Thank you so much.
    Best regards,
    Lele

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  2. Dear Toshiko (Mrs)
    I’m really amazed with your fig greenhouse, but I have a question to ask.
    As some websites said, figs need some kind of bugs to pollinate the fruit. Otherwise, it will drop.
    I wonder if fig trees are all sides covered with nets, how can pollination occur? Or figs are self-pollinated and pollinating bugs are a myth?
    Looking forward to your response.
    Thanks a million.
    Tuan

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  3. I bought a fig plant in Malaysia which came from Japan. It is bearing fruit/ inflorescence. My questions-what is this variety called and does it need pollination by wasps? The fruit falls unripened from the tree.

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    1. It does not need pollination by bees (wasps eat bees and don’t help with pollination). The fruit falls unripened because of dry weather. it needs plenty of sun and humidity.

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  4. I enjoyed reading this post very much. And I greatly admire Mrs Toshiko Otsuka’s fine effort in making figs one of the permanent features of Shizuoka’s landscape.

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  5. Good night! Figs in Japan! I thought that figs need tropical weather to grow. I was wrong….

    I have 2 trees in my backyard, they need lot of water to keep the leafs in summer. Now, is winter here and has no one leaf in the trees, but in December (summer) I need keep watering every day to produce fruits in fall. Dry figs is my favorite way to consume then, like dry persimmon.

    The flowers are small and inside, internal on, the future fruit (structure know as inflorescence) and pollinated by very small and thine wasp, and is formed by thousands of small “fruit” together (pseudofruit).

    We use the leafs to make tea, is very delicious. Try it.

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    1. Dear Amilcar!
      Greetings and a big thanks as usual for all the detailed explanations!
      Shizuoka is comparatively warm in Japan and has some very good exposure to the sun!
      Moreover the humidity is very high, which explains a lot!
      I didn’t about the tea!
      Cheers,
      Robert-Gilles

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