KANKITSU LABO Japan Visit Chapter 1: Sudachi Farm in Tokushima Prefecture

In September 2023, the KANKITSU LABO US team flew over to Japan and got together with the Japanese team to learn a lot about citrus fruits. Our first stop was Tokushima Prefecture located in the eastern part of the Shikoku region. We visited Kamiyama Town where a plenty of sudachi citrus orchards are located. 


The Kamiyama Center of JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperative) Myozai County

The Kamiyama Center of JA Myozai County specializes in sudachi and is responsible for the local sudachi business, including cultivation, harvest, grading, selection, quality check and shipping. We met Morishita-san of the center and asked about sudachi.


Q: What kind of citrus is sudachi?
JA: Sudachi is also known as “su-mikan” (vinegary citrus). We have enjoyed it like vinegar by squeezing young green sudachi before it ripens and turns yellow. Sudachi available on the markets are commonly 3.6-4 cm (about 1.5 inches) in diameter. That size has the highest commercial value because it is just right to complement a main dish when placed on a plate. The harvest season of sudachi is from the beginning of August to the end of September. However, Tokushima Prefecture employs a year-round supply system, and the prefectural the government instructs us to maintain sudachi in good conditions all year round. Following the instructions, Kamiyama Town strives to ship sudachi, including freshly harvested and refrigerated ones, for almost half a year.


Q: What is the unique flavor profile of sudachi?
JA:A refreshing taste and a sharp tartness are the distinct features of sudachi. Especially in Tokushima, sudachi farming is extensively practiced in hilly and mountainous areas that are chilly during winter. It is said that sudachi increases its acidity if exposed to the cold weather. Generally, a wider temperature gap is preferable, and the colder the weather is, the more sour sudachi turns.


Q: Do you keep the yield volume of sudachi every year? Could you explain the crop failure in 2022?
JA: We still don’t know what caused the crop failure in 2022, to tell the truth. After the harvest season is over in September, sudachi usually enters the resting period and its roots do not absorb nutritions. Then we do “orei-goe” (additional fertilization after harvest) to give sudachi trees enough time to recharge for next year. This worked well, and we had a stable yield every year until recently. However, for the past 4 or 5 years, we have experienced climate fluctuation. We had a great harvest in 2021, a huge failure in 2022, and an average yield in 2023. There are considerable differences in yield from year to year. 


After the interview with Morishita-san, the KANKITSU LABO US team members had a chance to harvest sudachi. The sudachi trees were not very tall, so we had to avoid branches to walk through the orchard. While doing so, we were surrounded by sudachi’s uniquely refreshing and spicy scent. We also tasted freshly picked sudachi on-site! It was sour yet flavorful and had a superb aroma. Nothing could have made us happier than those precious experiences of actually touching Japanese sudachi.