Tanabe’s Famous Plums

Ume Eating, Drinking and Shopping Here, There and Everywhere

By Alena Eckelmann    - 4 min read

The Tanabe area in the south of Wakayama Prefecture has the most ume (Japanese plum) orchards in Japan. In fact, Wakayama is the No. 1 ume producer in Japan, accounting for 64% of total domestic production, or more than 40,000 tons annually. Most of the Wakayama ume come from the Tanabe area.

The area is also well known for its mikan (mandarin oranges) and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails.

The cultivation of ume secures the livelihood of many villagers here and it stimulates the local economy. Some farmers also sell products that contain ume, such as ume sauce, ume soup, ume-flavored udon, and more.

There are quite a few companies in the area that produce ume products. Some even allow you to visit their factories and showrooms. Even better, you can sample umeboshi (hm, not so much) and umeshu (yeah, a lot please) at many of their showrooms.

Let’s visit Mr. Ishigami, a local farmer, Nakata Food, a local umeboshi and umeshu producing company in the Tanabe area ,and Kishu Umeshu de Kampai, a showroom featuring all things ume near Kii Tanabe Station.

Meeting with an Ume Farmer

Mr. Ishigami, holding the same name as the village, is one of the local farmers and the head of Ishigami Village. He is often found showing visitors around the orchards and explaining the history and specifics of ume cultivation in his village. You should visit the ume orchards in February when the blossoms are in full bloom.

The activities of farmers follow the ume season: pruning is done in November and December, followed by soil conditioning in January. When blossoms appear in February and March it is time for pollination by honeybees. Harvesting is done in June and July and processing in August and September.

Green ume, ao ume in Japanese, are picked from the trees in early June. They are is used for producing umeshu. Ripe fruits drop into nets spread out under the trees and are harvested from there, to be pickled and become umeboshi from mid-June to early July.

Umeboshi and Umeshu

Nakata Food is one of about twenty ume processors in the area. Nakata Foods started business in 1897 and now they are one of the biggest employers in the region. Visitors to their factory can watch the processing activities from a walkway while a guide explains the details.

At their large showroom you can sample umeboshi and umeshu to your liking. The impressive line-up of umeshu bottles is too tempting to not try at least one or two shots. Visitors better come here by hired taxi to fully enjoy sampling!

If you do not have a chance to visit Nakata Foods, then Kishu Umeshu de Kampai, located in short walking distance from Kii-Tanabe Station, is the place to go. Set up some years ago, this shop displays a great selection of local brands.

Two tables in the middle of the shop are crammed full with umeshu bottles. Here comes another chance to taste your way to umeshu paradise. If you like what you drink, then why not take some bottles home. Foreign visitors can shop tax-free.

Umeshu is the Law!

The locals love their umeshu so much that in 2014 they issued the Umeshu Kampai Ordinance. It rules that the first toast at official events in Tanabe must be done with umeshu.

This promptly inspired a toasting event at Tanabe’s Ogigahama Beach where an assembled crowd of 866 people kampai-ed with umeshu, a world record that entered the Guinness Book of Records.

Getting there

Kii-Tanabe Station can be reached by JR Kuroshio Train from Kyoto, Shin-Osaka and Tennoji. The Tanabe Tourism Office, located right next to Tanabe Station, provides detailed information.

A Charter Taxi/Jumbo Taxi Tour to the Kishu Ishigami Tanabe Plum Orchards and to Nakata Food is available. You can book at the Tanabe Tourism Office.

The Kishu Umeshu de Kampai showroom is located in easy walking distance from Kii Tanabe Station.

More info

Find out more about Kumano Kodo.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Alena Eckelmann Author 2 weeks ago
Umeboshi and many other Japanese foods have so many medicinal properties. Truly superfoods but the eating style is like Shojin Ryori, the vegetarian monks food.
Sleiman Azizi 2 weeks ago
Rule one: Eat umeboshi. Rule Two: Follow Rule One...