Amaou Strawberry: Japan’s Most Famous Strawberries

17 June 2021 by Alana

The name Amaou (あまおう) is an acronym for the Japanese adjectives amai (sweet), marui (round), ooi (big), and umai (delicious). This describes Amaou strawberries perfectly: they are consistently round, large, and sweet.

There are four major kinds of strawberry grown on Japanese soil: Sagahonoka strawberries from Saga Prefecture, Benihoppe strawberries from Shizuoka Prefecture, Tochiotome strawberries from Tochigi Prefecture, and Amaou strawberries from Fukuoka Prefecture

Out of all these varieties, Amaou is the most famous and is widely considered to be the best. In fact, in Japan, the variety is called the “King of Strawberries”. The Amaou strawberries are not only famous within the Japanese borders — they are also frequently exported to Hong Kong and Taiwan as a luxury product.

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The Origins of the “King of Strawberries”

Fukuoka Prefecture is located at the northern tip of Kyushu (the southernmost island of main Japan). It took six years for the Agricultural Experiment Station in Fukuoka Prefecture to develop the “perfect” Amaou strawberry strain. The station began research in 1999 but only registered the strawberries officially in 2005. After Amaou became an officially registered variant, it exploded in popularity. However, supply remains low, since Amaou strawberries are only allowed to be grown in Fukuoka, making them even more valuable! If you want to grow Amaou strawberries yourself, outside of Fukuoka, you will have to wait until 2025.

The average sugar content of an Amaou strawberry is above 11%, while its acidity must remain between 0.5~0.6. The strawberry must also have an exceptionally large size and usually weighs between 40 and 50g. The Guinness Book of Records even certified an Amaou strawberry as the world's heaviest!

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The Amaou strawberry cultivation process is far from simple. They are grown inside temperature-controlled vinyl greenhouses. Each plant is carefully cared for, and only the best-looking strawberries are selected for sale.

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3 Tips for Buying the Best Japanese Strawberries

1. Purchase during peak season
The best time for Amaou strawberries is from December to May. The first harvest is called “Ichiban Ichigo” which means “Best Strawberry”. These strawberries are exceptionally large and sweet. After the first harvest, comes the second harvest, then the third harvest, etc. As the harvests progress the strawberries become smaller and less sweet. So December, right when the season starts, is the best time to buy Amaou strawberries.

2. The redder the better

Amaou strawberries are already a deeper red than most varieties. However, even amongst Amamou, you can get different shades of color. The deeper the red color, the sweeter the strawberry will be. But if the red is too deep, then the strawberry might be overripe, affecting the flavor.

3. The rounder the sweeter

Shape can also affect a strawberry’s sweetness. It is said that the sugar collects at the tip of the strawberry, so if the tip is broader and the shape of the strawberry more round, the strawberry should have higher sugar content.

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The Amaou Strawberry in Japanese Sweets

One of Fukuoka’s most famous desserts is Amaou Strawberry ichigo daifuku. Ichigo daifuku are a traditional Japanese dessert or wagashi. To create ichigo daifuku, a strawberry is enveloped in azuki red bean paste, then wrapped with a layer of mochi (sticky rice cake) and rolled into a ball. The fresh tartness of the strawberry goes especially well with the sticky mochi and sweet azuki. 

Ichigo daifuku are often eaten in the winter when strawberries are in season, especially during winter festivals. In fact, strawberry daifuku are such a popular sweet in Japan that they even have their own Kit Kat flavor! And when ichigo daifuku use Amaou strawberries, they become even more delicious.

Another popular dessert featuring the special fruit is the Japanese Christmas cake. These cakes are made from layers of red strawberries, whipped cream, and sponge cake. The highest-end versions of Christmas cake use Amaou strawberries, rather than ordinary ones, elevating this confection to perfection. 

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