An apple a day – Nagano’s APPLES
When talking about the charms of Nagano Prefecture, nothing encapsulates the charms of its climate better than its apples. Nagano’s apple cultivation is believed to have started in the 19th century, but since the mid 20th century, it can be said that Nagano’s apple production has walked side by side with the development of the Japanese economy. Apples are known as a highly nutritious fruit, containing dietary fiber, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Nagano Prefecture is the second largest producer of apples in Japan. As the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctors away” goes, this may play a role in supporting the longevity of the people of Nagano Prefecture, including the highest average life expectancy of women in Japan.
Sweet apples cultivated by Nagano’s terroir
Occupying the 4th largest land area in Japan with its length extending approximately 212km from north to south, around 80% of the apple-growing area in Nagano is located at altitudes of 500m or higher and a wide variety of apples are cultivated in numerous different areas. In addition to the temperature difference between day and night which is a characteristic of areas with high altitude, the mountains’ slopes and the well-drained river terraces formed by the Chikuma and Tenryu Rivers flowing like giant snakes, allow the apples cultivated in Nagano to grow in full sunlight, giving them a rich, sweet flavor condensed with umami. For about 10 months from pre-sprouting to harvest, apple farmers work with the apple trees and the climate, utilizing the unique qualities of Nagano’s terroir and natural environment at its utmost, creating new varieties with rich individuality. The apples of Nagano are characterized by its wide array of varieties. Harvesting takes place from August when the summer heat is still hot, all the way to December, where different varieties are harvested in different locations each month. Because of the diverse characteristics the land holds and the knowledge of how to utilize the environment, Nagano Prefecture is able to offer a wide range of apple varieties for longer periods compared to other prefectures.
Appreciating diversity and uniqueness
The genealogy that has been passed down through the generations has now led to a new endeavor: cider. The way cider-making takes advantage of the uniqueness of the region and the varieties of apples is just as the way the farmers have utilized the climate for a long time and nurtured new varieties of apples, by making the most of the geographic characteristics and the charms offered by the local climate. In such ways, Nagano’s apples continue to take us on exciting new journeys by continuing to transform itself into new creative outputs. Like the British saying “An apple a day”, In Japan, we have a Buddhist saying “身土不二 (Shindo Funi)” which translates into “Body and soil are one and the same”, signifying the inseparability of your body, mind, and geographical circumstances. Nagano Prefecture’s apple cultivation seems to convey the idea that the human body and the land where we live are inseparable and whole.