Every region in Japan boasts a local delicacy, which is often used to promote commerce and tourism to the area. Okayama Prefecture, about halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima, claims peaches (white peaches specifically, or hakutou) and muscat grapes as its regional specialties. Since they're both fruits, they are easily transformed into desserts, and thus Okayama is something of a sweet tooth's paradise. There are many treats flavored with peaches or grapes, some found easily and some a bit more elusive. In this article we will take a look at some of these products and the stores that sell them.
This store has taken 'Okayama' and the Japanese word for peach, 'momo', and made them into what sounds like a girl's name. Of course, the name is supposed to hint at its merchandise, which consists exclusively of peach flavored sweets. Most of the products it sells are pudding or gelatin variations, including a peach flavored chocolate pudding limited to the winter season. There are baked goods as well for cookie lovers. They have several locations, including Okayama station, Tenmaya mall, and the newly opened Aeon Mall in central Okayama City.
Muskat and Hakutou Kibidango
Kibidango is a dessert specific to Okayama made from rice flour which looks like a small ball of mochi but is much lighter. The standard variety doesn't have any particular flavoring other than sugar, but there are now muscat(right) and peach (left)flavors available from several different makers. Even more extravagant are the varieties with a little bit of fruit syrup in the center. A box of 8 will generally cost around ￥400, and there are boxes with several flavors together as well. You can find them at Okayama station or most places around Okayama that sell boxed omiyage.
Hitotsubu no Muscat
The name literally means 'a single grape', and indeed this okashi is a preserved muscat peeled and given a thin mochi-like coating. It's simple but also the most recognizable of muscat candies. There is another similar confection called Riku no Houju, which keeps the same idea and adds a sweeter coating. But they aren't cheap; a box of 8 large grapes costs around ￥2000! You'll probably want to save them for a special occasion.
Fruits Land Okayama
This juice stand is only open in the summer months which correspond with the harvesting of Okayama's peaches and grapes. They sell fresh fruits as well, but the real appeal is the frozen, also smoothie-like juice. It's the perfect way to forget the searing heat of Japan's unforgiving summers, and take in some of the local flavors at the same time. Of course there are peach and muscat grape flavors, as well as another type of red grape particular to western Japan called pione (with Italian origins). One cup of juice will cost you around ￥350. As a side note, this shop at Okayama station is the seasonal extension of a farm which sells produce directly on-site, but it's rather out of the way in a city called Haga.
Calpis, the non-carbonated soft drink with the odd name, is known for having regional limited flavors, so of course Okayama gets peach flavored refreshment. Most of the time, however, it can only be found packaged as a souvenir, so if you're searching at the local grocery store you might come up short. A box with three 120 ml containers can be had for around ￥700. The makers of Calpis have also sold muscat flavor in the past as a seasonal variation but it hasn't become a year round product the way white peach has.
Cream Daifuku Hakutou
Daifuku is the general name for a ball of mochi with anko (bean paste) inside, a definitive Japanese dessert. This particular variety replaces the anko with sweet cream containing Okayama peach chunks. They can be bought wherever Okayama souvenirs are sold or ordered online, but they have to be shipped and delivered frozen. A box of 5 goes for around ￥1000, or they can be purchased individually.
Hakutou Liqueur Nama Chocolate
Now for something extravagant, this oddly colored chocolate is made with peach liqueur and cream, hence the 'nama' title. These confections really emphasize the peach flavor; it's more accurate to imagine a real peach somehow turned into chocolate, as opposed to chocolate with peach flavoring mixed in. They are only produced at certain times of the year, although some shops keep inventory all year round (with a heftier price tag). A box with 25 cubes costs around ￥1000, if you're lucky enough to get your hands on one.
This is just a handful of the unique peach and muscat flavored products floating around Okayama. A bit of digging or even just a casual glance around the main station can turn up plenty more. If you aim for summer in particular, you're sure to find plenty of goodies meant to satiate the Japan-bound sweet tooth.