Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pear picking and dahlia watching...

Asian apple pears are in season right now and I’m working on eating my weight worth of them his fall. I discovered these fruits the September after I had moved to Iwakuni. They are huge, about the size of grapefruits, but so sweet and juicy. I love it when they show up in Iwakuni grocery stores, which started about two weeks ago.

I had the opportunity to go to the Sera area in Hiroshima prefecture (about 2 hours from Iwakuni by Sanyo expressway) yesterday, to not only pick apple pears, but to also enjoy the dahlia flowers that are in bloom right now. The Iwakuni Explorer (otherwise known as Hyla) and I hit the road with a couple of other ladies, Katie and Sue. For your planning purposes, we left at about 8:30 a.m. and returned by 6 p.m.

Our first stop was at Sera Kogen farms (Google maps), which is also where I went to enjoy the tulips earlier this year. In the early summer, Sera Kogen also has sunflowers blooming. The entrance fee is 800 yen, or about $8. Once you’re inside, there are rows and rows of Dahlias to enjoy. There is also a restaurant, a café, and the opportunity to cut your own small dahlias to take home, for 200 yen a stem.

I had never been a flower chaser until I came to Japan. Now I have the urge to take off and see every flower in bloom. Hanami, or sitting around and enjoying flowers, especially cherry blossoms in March, is a longtime Japanese tradition, which I am embracing… in an entirely American way. I travel all around south western Japan in search of the seasons’ blooming flowers. But I’m not much of a sitter, so, instead of serenely picnicking and watching the flowers bloom, I wandered through as many rows of dahlias as I could, taking photos of my favorites. And here they are:

Yes... I did have a lot of favorites. :)

We stopped in the small café in Sera Kogen and drank a 400-yen iced tea in about two gulps. I took home about 1,600 yen in cut flowers, which I clipped myself with clippers and a measuring stick provided by the farm. Once we had gotten our fill of flowers and sun, we headed off to pick pears (called nishi in Japanese) at a location about 15 minutes away from Sera Kogen.

The pear farm store is called Sera Kosui Nouen (Google map) and website. This is where you pay 1,000 yen for all-you-can-eat pear picking (I ate three… that was my lunch) and a mini bus comes and takes you to the orchard, and then brings you back. You also have the opportunity to purchase pears to take home, either small, medium or large basket size. I selected the medium basket for 3,000 yen and got about 15 pears. This is generally cheaper than you can buy them out in town for.

Now, the Japanese don’t just hold the pear and bite in to it, like we do. They use knives to cut a section off, and then eat the section of pear off of the knife. This method does reduce the amount of sticky pear juice on your chin, but, being American and not eating fruit this way, about half of my first pear ended up on the ground as it slipped off of my knife. Quite disappointing since I was hungry and love pears. Luckily, there were a few thousand left for me to pick.

Translation: Large - 4000 yen; Medium, 3,000 yen, and Small, 2500 yen. Yes... I wasted one of my Facebook posts asking what it said.  I thought it would be more profound. 

The entire pear farm staff was friendly. English was limited, but despite our fairly limited Japanese (Hyla can actually manage a conversation in Japanese. So can I, as long as it only includes my saying "Hello" and "Thank you." They were also surprised that we had driven all the way from Iwakuni by ourselves.  Obviously, they haven't heard about Tenaciously Yours and Iwakuni Explorer. ;)
Yes, I came home with a lot of pears. Luckily, my family loves pears, fresh off the tree, or I have a healthy recipe (no guilt!) for pear crunch that is really easy to make.

Jessica’s No-Guilt Pear Crunch

5 cups peeled, diced Asian apple pear
2 Tablespoons Splenda
4 teaspoons brown sugar substitute
¼ cup no trans fat margarine
3/4 cups whole oats (oatmeal - but not instant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup crushed nuts (your choice, I use pecans)

Mix diced pears with Splenda and put in an 8-inch baking dish
Mix oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts together in a bowl; mix in the margarine until small clumps form
Sprinkle oat mixture over the apples.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
Serve topped with fat free cool whip

As a bonus offering to you, here is the porta-potty I had to pee in while visiting the orchard. Thank goodness I have mastered using Japanese-style toilets. Yes, it smelled about the way it looks, although the workers get an A for effort... they had an air freshener on a tiny shelf.

After we had eaten our fill of pears in the orchard, and had picked as many pears as we could carry, it was time to board the minibus (which came about every 20 minutes) and head back to the farm’s store where we left the car.

At the store you can buy gift packs of pears, 

... cheap produce (like this spaghetti squash, which I usually pay $9 on base for… it was delicious, too), snacks…

... and live snakes in plastic jugs.

This one cost about $25. I have no idea why they were for sale.
The Sanyo expressway exit is Kochi, the same one you take for the Hiroshima Airport, so plan for between 5,000 and 6,000 yen in tolls round-trip. I also like to stop at the rest stop right before the Kochi exit for some pastries, and then again in Miyajima on the way home, because that is where Starbucks is, not to mention a great view of Miyajima Island.

As an added bonus to the trip, there is a “singing road” on the way to Sera after you get off of the Sanyo. Watch for the sign with musical notes and for blue musical notes on the road. As you drive, the song plays as your tires hit the road, so roll down your windows and enjoy!


Beverly Stradley said...


Jessica Guthrie said...

Thanks! I really enjoyed this excursion...