Updated: April 17, 2018
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Mikan (みかん) Fruit: How The Japanese Consume It

The mikan fruit is an important part of the food culture of Japan. Frozen or grilled, it's consumed in a variety of simple ways. This article presents the ways Japanese eat their most popular citrus.

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The Japanese Mikan Fruit

Mikan is a sweet seedless citrus that is very similar to tangerine oranges. The mikan fruit is mainly produced in Wakayama Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture in Japan. It is originally from China, but it has been extremely popular in Japan for centuries (its origin can be traced back to the 15th century). The first western contact with the mikan fruit occurred in the early Meiji Period of the 1870s, right after Japan opened to world commerce. Jesuits brought back the fruit to American to be grown in Georgia.
Until 2013, the Japanese mikan was the most consumed fruit in Japan; from that year, its rank got overtaken by the banana and apple. The Japanese associated the mikan with winter comfort and is still the most popular during the cold season.

How The Japanese Enjoy The Mikan Orange

The best way to enjoy the mikan according to many Japanese people is while you are sitting at a kotatsu (a traditional low table which is heated from underneath).
There is even a proper way to peel a mikan. Habitually, people do not rip off the peel but rather peel it so that it seems to be opening like a flower.
There are a variety of ways to simply eat a mikan fruit. In Kyushu, some places customarily prepare the fruit by grilling it with the skin. This is called yakimikan (焼きみかん).
It is quite common to eat it frozen in the summertime too. The high sugar content of the mikan fruit makes it similar to an ice candy. You can buy all kinds of desserts which contain frozen mikan in them.
If you visit a Japanese convenience store in the summer, you shouldn't have any problem finding ice cream made with a certain amount of real mikan fruit juice as well.
Canned mikan fruits are also quite common. People eat them as is or use the pieces to decorate cakes or other desserts.
A fancy way to eat a mikan fruit is by making it into a jelly dessert. You may find some very expensive mikan jelly desserts at high-end fruit parlors in Tokyo. The one pictured above is found at Ginza Senbikiya.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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