Over the years, Japan has built a reputation as a nation that produces quality goods and services. It's pursuit of perfection and extreme attention to detail are second to none. Within the country, each prefecture also holds its own reputation for producing certain goods that are specific to that region. For example, Hokkaido is known for its milk, Chiba for its peanuts, and Nagoya for Toyota automobiles. This past weekend, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to visit farmers in Miyazaki to learn about their famous mangos known as 太陽のタマゴ (Taiyo no Tamago), which translates to "the sun's egg". With only a few days notice, I bought my ticket and was on my way to see the fabled fruit!
To provide some background on Miyazaki and their famous Taiyo no Tamago:
- Miyazaki is located in Kyushu, the southern part of Japan and known for its exceptionally good food, tropical weather, and Hawaii-like atmosphere.
- Mangos grow especially well here during the hot summers.
- The "Taiyo no Tamago" branding was created by JA, an association similar to the USDA.
- To gain the "Taiyo no Tamago" branding a mango must meet specific guidelines such as:
- Sugar concentration
- The record price for a pair of Taiyo no Tamago was recently set at $4000, which a department store bought at auction and resold for an undisclosed amount.
Being interested in agriculture and having started a small farm at my home in Hawaii, I was extremely excited to learn about how the mangos were made and even more excited to connect with the local farmers in Miyazaki.
After landing at Miyazaki airport I took the train to a nearby station to meet up with a woman named Reiko. We had been introduced to each other by a friend who heard about my interest in Japanese agriculture. Reiko started her own online business that connected Tokyo customers to fresh ingredients produced in Miyazaki. Her customers would put in an order and the produce would travel from Miyazaki to a warehouse in Shibuya, which would then be delivered to their homes, sometimes in the same day! Reiko kindly agreed to show me around Miyazaki and introduce me to the local farmers. Although we had just met a week earlier, she planned an entire day of visits to different farms and distributors. Since we would be returning to Tokyo the same day (crazy!), we had little time and lots to do!
We started with breakfast at a restaurant that uses organically produced flour in their pancakes and hastily made our way to the first farm. It was a high-quality farm that produced melons and lychee which typically sell for $100+/melon and $5+/lychee. At almost the size of my palm, I have never seen this size of lychee before! The owner didn't disclose too much about the process (protecting their hard earned trade secrets), but we were fortunate enough to try some of the luxurious lychees straight from the tree and boy were they sweet!
From there we went on to the mango farm. The owner was a younger man who had taken over for his father. He was extremely knowledgeable in various types of crops and growing methods and explained them in great detail as we walked around his farm. Towards the end, we came up to a few large greenhouses which I could not see into from the outside, but I had a feeling they were something special. As he opened the doors we were greeted with the sweet smell of mangos and rows of perfectly pruned mango trees. Each tree had rows of wires in which the mangos would hang from and each mango was wrapped in a net that allowed it to fully ripen without falling to the ground. I have never seen such perfectly maintained mango trees and immediately understood why these were so acclaimed (and expensive) in Japan. The amount of time, effort, and care that is invested into these mangos is undoubtedly the reason for their perfect shape, impeccable color, and intoxicating aroma.
At the end of the tour, we were gifted with one of his prized mangos. Reiko and I looked at each other with wide eyes and couldn't wait to try it! We decided that it would be best to wait until we got back to Tokyo and enjoy it after it had been chilled for a while. With that we bid farewell to our wonderful guide and his farm, but not before telling him to visit me in Hawaii, and that I would love to collaborate with him in the future. His smile said it all and I know that I will be seeing him someday soon. Hopefully, to return the favor, but more so to create a strong bridge between Japan and Hawaii through our passion for farming.
At the airport, I was approached by an older woman who was selling the "Taiyo no Tamago". Thinking about everything I had learned, all the hard work that the farmers put into making it, and wanting to produce these in Hawaii, I bit the bullet and purchased one. I feel that if one wants to sell a product, they must be able to understand it from the consumer's point of view. At $50, it was the most I've ever spent on any fruit, but when shared with friends, it was well worth it!
"Warau kado ni wa fuku kitaru"
A positive mind attracts positive results.