Ikuchishima in Onomichi, Hiroshima is so small that it takes less than 30 minutes to drive around the outer circumference. Yet, more than 30% of domestically produced lemons in Japan are Setoda Lemons from Ikuchishima and its neighboring island Takaneshima. Lemons from Setouchi are gaining popularity around Japan, but there was a time when imported lemons were so popular that lemons were either “not selling or being sold at a low price”.
“It’s said that lemon production began in Hiroshima during the Meiji era. Setoda-cho in particular has the ideal environment for lemon growing with the relatively warm temperatures at 15.5℃ (yearly average) and little rain year round. While much of the lemons used to be imported, domestic lemons gained popularity as consumers became concerned about safety from fertilizers and chemicals, and we’ve slowly increased our market share since 2000. Our goal was to produce lemons that can be eaten unpeeled, using minimal chemicals. We’ve also been making heart and star shaped lemons. As a result of continued research and hard work, we’ve been able to increase our market share for Setoda Lemons to more than 30%.”
When we visited the lemon orchard run by Satoru Harada who is a third generation citrus fruit grower and also helps train new farmers in the region, the trees on the hillside were filled with green lemons, absorbing the sunlight.
“Many popular products using Setouchi lemons are trending now”
On the table in front of us were a wide range of lemon products. Setoda-cho has been involved in developing new products using Setoda Lemons, and the souvenir shops at stations and airports in Hiroshima are filled with “Setoda Lemon flavored” items. “Setoda Lemon” uses 2 full Setoda Eco Lemons soaked in lemon juice and honey, “Setoda Navel” has navel oranges soaked in honey, “Shio Ponzu” (salty vinegar sauce) using Setoda Lemons, daidai citrus, yuzu citrus, kabosu citrus and konatsu citrus from Kochi prefecture flavored with Setouchi sea salt and deep ocean water from Muroto, Kochi are just a few examples of the many products that continue to be developed. These items are popular not just with visitors but local residents as well.
“The name `Setoda Lemon` came about as part of the municipally led `Setouchi Sea Way Project”, a joint project of the prefectures in Setouchi which endeavors to promote the hidden treasures of the Setouchi area both domestically and internationally. Of course, our goal was for the brand names `Setoda Lemon` and `Hiroshima Lemon` to become widely known, but it’s also true that the popularity of lemons in general was accelerated by the branded lemons.”
Globalization of agriculture which picked up speed after 2000, posed a huge threat to domestic farming. But Setoda Lemons are an example of how that threat can be overcome through tireless efforts to produce the best fruit and develop secondary and tertiary products.
- JA Mihara Setoda Sales Center