From April 10th to July 30th,Oct 1st to Dec 20th
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Generally speaking, there are three important elements for farming. They are soil, water and sunshine. First of all, you need to know if the soil is suitable for growing whatever you are going to plant. It has been said that the soil of this area in Minami Alps City is very suitable for growing various kinds of fruit. The soil has lots of gravels and dark color in this area and therefore it is very good for drainage. This way, the water can go inside the soil slowly and deeper to the roots of the trees. The gravels work as a filter when it rains.
Secondly, you need to know if you can bring in enough water to your farm. Luckily, we have a good irrigation system with a huge number of waterways. Actually, about 350 years ago, a very well- known canal called "Tokushima Canal" was created in this area where farmers can bring water through a lot of waterways. This canal is 18km length from the Midai River. Rice farmers had a very hard time until the canal was created because of water shortages during summer almost every year. This area has been known for having very little rain all year round. That's part of the reason why many farmers grow cherries. The water shortage can be helpful for growing some fruit including cherries, but it is very negative for growing rice.
Now, along this canal, we have a little walkway with a huge number of Japanese cherry blossom trees and it has been designated as one of the top 500 most beautiful walkways in Japan.
Finally, you need to be able to provide enough sunshine to make sweet and tasty fruit. Even the trees on the mountains can die because of the lack of enough space and sunshine when branches are not well trimmed. As well as other trees, fruit trees need to bring in enough sunshine among the branches in order to produce tasty fruit. Trees tend to be grown upright with crowded branches if they are grown naturally. In that case, you will find there is not enough space among the branches.
Therefore, we intentionally pull down many branches to a 45-degree angle with strong strings and stakes up to a year or sometimes. After a year, when you release the strings, the branches will naturally grow sideways. This way, the sunshine can go inside each branch deeply even among thin branches.
For growing many kinds of fruit such as cherries, apples, grapes, peaches and more others as well, we need to have a great difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures during day and night and also between winter and summer.
Yamanashi is located in the inland area of Kanto and Chubu Region that is a central part of Japan and surrounded by lots of high mountains causing a drastic change in temperature and making it suitable for growing many kinds of fruit except citrus and tropical fruit. It may be surprising but, there are only a few hours when it is really hot in the day during summer. That is usually between 12:00 noon until 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. Any time after 3:00 p.m., a very cool breeze usually blows to this area from Yatsugateke Range that is located in the north between Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures. It works effectively as a natural air-conditioner.
With these methods, the size of Japanese peaches can be 5-6 times bigger and some varieties can possibly be 10 times bigger. Usually, the late varieties can be bigger and also tastier. They can be harvested in late July and August. When foreign customers come to our farm, they are very surprised and pleased by the size and taste of our peaches. Even Japanese grapes are much tastier and bigger. There is a clear distinction between growing grapes in Japan and that of other nations. In overseas countries, they grow grapes for mostly making wine. Possibly 98% of their grapes go for wine. Yet, here in Japan, 98% of grapes go for eating instead of making wine. When you make wine, you don't need to spend much time growing grapes. Yet, here in Japan, as well as the case of the peaches, we trim them by over 90% when they are very tiny. We also cover each bunch of grapes one by one and put nylon sheet umbrellas on top to protect them from the rain.
Even in the case of growing cherries, we Japanese farmers use a very creative method that you can't see overseas. We grow cherries under a greenhouse called "Side-less". It has been common for Japanese fruit farmers to grow cherries under these dorm-style green houses with an arch on the top since the 1980's. They are about 5 meters' in height. This style of green house was originally created to protect cherries from rain and birds during the harvest season.
When the cherry season comes, only the top part of the arch style roof is covered by strong, transparent plastic sheets and the whole house is covered by plastic nets to protect the fruit from birds. Also, with this green house, we can move the transparent plastic sheets both upward and downward by using the steel chains while staying on the ground. When it is raining, we have to cover the house with plastic sheets, but we can roll them up onto the top of the arch when it is not raining. This way, the whole house is covered by the net but not totally covered by plastic sheets and that’s the reason why we call it "Side-less" for this style of green house in Japanese English.
The side way of the house is not covered with plastic sheets, because this house is not the type that uses petroleum to warm the inside up to accelerate the blooming of the flowers in order to sell the fruit earlier and receive the higher market price. It has been common for us, fruit farmers to grow cherries inside this type of green house since the 1980's in Japan, as I mentioned earlier. Yet, we see this type of greenhouse only in Japan and not anywhere else in the world.
Talking about the harvesting of cherries, people use machines in the U.S. or other countries. The machines can shake the whole trunk of the tree or with some other types of machines, people just press the button and they can provide a very strong blow of wind artificially from the bottom upward and forcibly let the all cherries drop on the conveyor belt to carry them into a metallic box automatically. I have seen some of these types of scenes on videos. Yet, that way, it can obviously cause lots of damages to the fruit.
Here, in Japan, we, fruit farmers carefully pick them one by one by hand in order to preserve the quality of the fruit. Here, just by looking at the difference of harvesting cherries, we can see the clear distinction of national characters between Japanese and westerners. You have to be very patient in order to pick cherries by hand. This is the same for lots of our other manual works such as thinning buds, pollinating, and covering each fruit with special double papers and so on.