In Japan, there is a cultural tradition of giving mid-year (July) and end-of-year (December) gifts to those to whom you are indebted. To understand why food is often selected as gifts, you need to look back to one aspect of Japanese history that has been passed down from ancient times. This is about how Japanese people traditionally care about the person to whom they feel grateful as well as the origin of the sense of hospitality that exists today.
Since ancient times, Japanese people have traditionally worshipped gods or their ancestors twice a year. During these periods, people offered food and prayed for a good harvest. People believed that sharing the food offered to a shrine with others would ensure connections to the gods and ancestors. This custom led to another custom of sharing the offering with the participants in the rituals as well as family members and people in the community. After that, the custom of giving gifts emerged from the social customs of splitting and delivering in addition to sharing. Starting as the custom of sharing an offering to a shrine, the custom of giving gifts took root as events where gifts were sent to relatives, supervisors, and acquaintances who were elders or people with a higher social rank.
Particularly after the Meiji period, the Japanese economy grew rapidly, the scope of relationships expanded as the population increased, and the custom of sending gifts was promoted through TV, newspapers, and other media. These are part of the reasons why Ochugen and Oseibo (giving mid-year and end-of-year gifts) have taken root in Japan. People today have many choices of gifts and products to choose from, including online commerce. It may look as if the situation would undergo a great change, but one thing remains the same: the sense of gratitude and caring for the other person. Many people nowadays want to send carefully selected gifts that make the recipients find valuable.
Sembikiya-Sohonten responds to the customers’ sense of warm-heartedly caring about the other person and wanting to pick good gifts and so offers high-quality fruits, sweets, and desserts carefully made with fresh ingredients. We hope you enjoy the uniquely developed food culture of Japan and try the world’s top-quality fruits that Sembikiya offers.
Muskmelon (sold throughout the year)
The most famous offering from Sembikiya is muskmelon, which is said to be the king of fruits and ranked highest among many various kinds of melons in terms of taste, scent, and appearance. Sembikiya shops only offer muskmelons grown in Shizuoka, which generally gets more sun than other areas in Japan and where the weather is warm. But, there is more to it than great weather; Sembikiya’s muskmelon, which is ranked the best, is the result of day-to-day efforts by the farmers to carefully control cultivation and who treat the produce as a treasure.
Let us present some of the typical cultivation methods of our farmers to give you an idea of how highly committed they are to quality:
In order to keep the fruit from absorbing excess moisture, each melon is suspended above the ground, and the air temperature in the greenhouse is controlled accordingly. By preventing the melon from absorbing excess moisture, the rich flavor and scent can be enjoyed to the fullest.
One Fruit per Stem
Only one fruit is yielded from one stem; all other fruits are picked in advance. Limiting the number of fruits per stem to one prevents the dispersion of nutrients from the soil and stem and allows it to concentrate in the fruit.
While vinyl greenhouses are generally used in Japan to grow fruits and vegetables, the muskmelons produced in Shizuoka are grown in glass greenhouses. Glass greenhouses have higher sunlight transmittance, which is the most appropriate for the cultivation of muskmelons that grow best with light. In addition, the south-facing roofs of the glass greenhouses is relatively larger to admit more light into the inside even during winter when the position and angle of the sun is much lower.
Queen Strawberry (Nyohou strawberries): sold for a limited time only
The farmers in Kagawa grow Queen Strawberries for Sembikiya, and they spare no effort in paying delicate attention to the care of them to make our customers happy because of the taste. The strawberries we deliver are crimson and shiny as gems.
With the increasing popularity of sweet strawberries, many branded strawberries are available in supermarkets. However, Sembikiya’s strawberries are more than just sweet. Based on the philosophy that the strawberries of a fruit specialty store must combine moderate acidity with the appropriate color, glaze, and shape, we searched everywhere in Japan and finally found the ideal group of farm producers in Kagawa Prefecture with the help of many people in the process. Out of so many strawberries that are grown in the contracted greenhouses, Sembikiya carefully selects a very limited number that have met all requirements. Accounting for only 3% of all strawberries grown there, the Queen Strawberry has become the leading product for Sembikiya in winter.
See the following examples that show how our producers remain committed to quality and why Queen Strawberries are so tasty:
For maximum sunlight, our farm producers use vinyl, highly light transmissive material, and cover the greenhouses with a single film, instead of two to allow sunlight to pass through. These greenhouses are equipped with heating equipment to protect the fruit from low temperatures.
The greenhouses need to maintain room temperatures that are not too high or too low. When the temperature goes up, a large fan installed in the upper section of the greenhouse automatically activates for ventilation. When the temperature drops, heaters are automatically activated. In particular, careful attention to temperatures is required in early spring because it could easily go up.
Elevated cultivation means the fruits do not come into contact with the soil. Since this condition is preferable from a hygienic standpoint and creates fewer shaded areas, fruits grown with this method are evenly colored and glossy. Our producers have a system in place where the strawberries automatically receive fertilizers and water according to the amount of solar radiation, which allows them to thrive in a non-stressful environment.
Pruning Excess Leaves and Flowers
Excess leaves are pruned to make sure that they do not block the sunlight shining down from the top. While many fruits grow from one strawberry plant, all unnecessary fruits are thinned while they are buds so that only the nice-looking ones receive sufficient nutrition.