Hyogo Prefecture Figs Growing in Popularity as Far Away as Tokyo

Courtesy of the Kawanishi municipal government
Emi Nishida checks the condition of her figs.

A specialty of Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, figs are fast becoming well known far beyond the town where they are cultivated. Some fully ripe figs that are harvested early in the morning are used in stores as far away as Tokyo on the same day. They are popularly called “asadori no megumi,” which means “blessings of the morning harvest.” The figs can be eaten raw as they are, while those that are higher quality are used at a famous tart shop in Tokyo or processed into wine that has become a hit in local markets. “Everyone who is part of the fruit’s process will work together to get the word out about the charm of Kawanishi figs,” said an official of the Kawanishi municipal government.

Fruit has been widely cultivated in Kawanishi for many years. As for figs, many believe that the current main variety, Masui Dauphine, was successfully produced in the city for the first time in Japan in the early Showa era (1926-89). Fig production then spread to other parts of the country. Today, about 100 farmers grow figs on a total of 12 hectares of land, mainly in the southern part of the city, and ship roughly 400 tons of figs each year to places including the Keihanshin area (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe).

With a focus on emphasizing their fig’s sweet flavor and freshness, the city decided on the nickname of “asadori no megumi” in 2015 after asking the public for feedback, and dove straight into promoting itself as the birthplace of modern figs.

Kawanishi fig tarts

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A tart made with Kawanishi figs

Kawanishi figs have been attracting attention in Tokyo as well since 2019. Taking advantage of its close location to Osaka International Airport, the city cooperates with airlines such as Japan Airlines and transports figs harvested early in the morning to Tokyo. Qu’il fait bon, a nationwide fruit tart chain, produces tarts combining Kawanishi figs with chocolate cream and sells them at stores in Tokyo’s Ginza and Aoyama districts in the afternoon of the same day that they shipped. A whole tart with a diameter of 25 centimeters sells for ¥9,936, including tax.

“The flavor of the figs is as strong as the chocolate,” said a public relations official at Qu’il fait bon. “The tart is popular among women in their 30s. Some customers line up in front, waiting for the tart to hit the shelves.”

As for wine, Japan agricultural cooperative Hyogo Rokko and others commercialized a fig variant in 1995. The wine is called “The Morning Dewdrops,” and the cooperative sells it around February every year for a limited period. Businesses in Kawanishi have developed products using figs such as cakes, pies and freeze-dried items, which are used as gifts for the city’s hometown tax donation program and for other purposes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fig wine, popular for its sweet, fruity aroma.

Fig season takes place in August and September. Emi Nishida, 55, a fig farmer in the city, grows about 6,000 fig trees in her field and harvests them from around 4 a.m. with her family and friends. “Since there has been less rain this year, the figs are small, but their sweetness is condensed,” said Nishida. Speaking about Kawanishi figs being built up as a brand, she said, “I hope many people come to know the appeal of this fruit that has been carefully taken care of.”