While there are over 10,000 types of grapes around the world, I had the opportunity to taste a handful of them in Japan. At the Budokarinojiyu Orchards in the Yamanashi wine region of Japan, I feasted on unlimited all you can eat grapes for 2,000 yen or just under $20 USD. While the vineyard grows 34 varieties of grapes, they had a dozen varieties available to eat on their grape buffet and we found another variety of grape growing right above our table.
In no particular order, here is a list of 15 types of grapes that grow in Japan including tasting notes, descriptions, and other historical facts.
Hey there! Find a video at the bottom featuring an in-depth grape taste test in Japan.
First developed in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1957, Pione is hands down my favorite Japanese grape. I first tasted the Pione grape from a street vendor in Yuasa and was instantly hooked. At the time, I paid $5 for a carton of these grapes, thinking I got ripped off. But I soon found out that some grape varieties sell in excess of 10x that price.
Pione are large, seedless, purple skinned grapes with a distinct Welch’s grape juice flavor. While Kyoho and Delaware dominate Japan’s total grape production by volume, Pione comes in third.
2. Aki Queen
Another delicious grape is the Aki Queen. First grown in 1991, Aki Queen is a large seedless table grape with light red skin.
Derived from Kyoho, Aki Queen are very loose on the vine. This was very apparent when we snipped a bunch of these grapes from the vine, they slipped out of our hands, and fell to the ground. As a result, every single grape instantly detached from the vine and scattered all over the ground.
3. Rosario Bianco
The Rosario Bianco is another grape developed relatively recently in 1987. As a cross between Rosaki and Muscat of Alexandria, it yields large white berries with seeds.
Rosario Bianco was the grape that most closely resembled a common white grape in the US by taste. On the other hand, the Rosario Bianco along with many other Japanese grapes are much larger than grapes you’ll find in American grocery stores.
Although the sign at Budokarinojiyu Orchards in Japan said Cotopy, after doing some research, I can’t find much information on this type of grape. This means something was probably lost in translation from Japanese to English.
Anyway, most Cotopy grape berries are white near the vine and red at the bottom. I’m not sure if the ones we ate were ready to eat or not, but for a grape that is predominately red, the taste was mild and not too sweet.
5. Muscat Bailey-A
Muscat Bailey-A is a very dark purple grape first breeded by Zenbei Kawakami at the Iwanohara Winery in the Niigata Prefecture. Bailey and Muscat Hamburg grapes were crossed to produce the Muscat Bailey-A variety.
Similar to Pione, Bailey-A has a very strong grape juice flavor. The thick skin of the grape falls off the meat of the grape leaving you with a delicious seeded center.
6. Queen Nina
In 2009, the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization Institute of Fruit Tree Science (NIFTS) in Japan released the Queen Nina grape. Queen Nina is a cross between Akitsu-20 and Aki Queen where Akitsu-20 itself is a cross between Benizuiho and Hakuho.
The Queen Nina grape is a very large grape with berries between 15 and 20 grams. While the skin is easily breakable and firm, the flesh is juicy with a foxy mild flavor.
First developed in 1977, Kaiji is a relatively older grape variety from Japan. As a cross between Flame Tokay and Neo Muscat, Kaiji is a large red grape that’s on average around 10 grams per berry.
When biting into a Kaiji grape, you’ll notice a crisp skin that practically falls off and you’ll taste a mild to neutral grape flavor.
With berries up to 20 grams in size, Suihou grapes are large white grapes. I personally couldn’t find much information online about the history of the Suihou grape.
A characteristic of Suihou grapes is a firm skin, but soft flesh. For me personally, I tasted a mild earthy flavor and got lots of tiny seeds.
The first on this types of grapes list that’s oblong shaped, Goldfinger is appropriately named as they literally look like a gold finger.
Goldfinger grapes have a distinct cotton candy taste. They are a seeded white grape with a firm thin skin and flesh. Again, I couldn’t find too much information about Goldfinger on the internet as this is probably a nickname for the grape.
The Kattākurugan, also spelled Katta Kurgan, is a white grape grown in Japan that actually originated in Uzbekistan.
This grape was one of firmest yet juiciest grapes out of the list. Compared to other types of grapes, the Kattākurugan has a mild taste probably due to a smaller sugar content.
Kyoho or 巨峰葡萄 literally translate to “giant mountain”. These grapes are the world’s most harvested grape variety by land area where 90% of the grapes are cultivated in China. Although that’s the case, Kyoho grapes were first breeded in 1937 in the Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan, but weren’t given their name until 1946. Today, Kyoho grapes are very popular in East Asia especially Japan, Taiwan, China, and Korea.
A Kyoho grape is a very dark purple grape with large seeds. The skin is considerd slip-skin which means the skin easily separates from the flesh. Although it’s edibile, the skin of Kyoho grapes is not traditionally eaten.
A Wink grape is similar to Cotopy in that both berries are white near the vine and red at the bottom. Again, we may have eaten these grapes pre-peak ripeness.
Out of all the grapes I tasted in Japan, the Wink grape had the most crunch. The shape was oblong, although not nearly as oblong as Goldfinger and Banana. While the Wink grape has lots of seeds, it has a texture that’s similar to an apple or pear.
The Banana grape is a crispy white grape similar to Wink in texture. A Banana grape also has an oblong shape like the Goldfinger.
Unfortunately, like a few other types of grapes on this list, I couldn’t find much information about the Banana grape. However, the vineyard’s website states that “it is a rare variety with a taste like Pittellobianco and Muscat”.
14. Shine Muscat
First breeded in Japan in the late 1980’s, Shine Muscat grapes are a very popular seedless white grape. In fact, at Budokarinojiyu Orchards in Japan where I did my grape taste testing, it cost an extra 1,000 yen or about $10 USD to taste the Shine Muscat.
Ever since being introduced to China, the Shine Muscat grape variety has exploded in popularity and can be bought in most grocery stores in China.
The grape has a crispy flesh, and is named as such due to a muscat flavor.
Although I didn’t eat the Delaware grape in Japan, this type of grape is actually the most produced grape in Japan. According to some sources, the Delaware grape was “probably discovered in Frenchtown, New Jersey, but was first brought to public notice by George Campbell, of Delaware, Ohio, in the 1850s”.
When ripe, the Delaware grape has a pale red skin color that easily slips off the juicy flesh. Compared to other grapes on this list, the Delaware grape berry is much smaller.
The website of the vineyard where we tasted all you can eat grapes is here: https://jiyuuen.jimdo.com. You can find the list of the 34 grape varieties on the right if you translate the page from Japanese to English.
While $20 for grapes may seem outrageous to you, Japan doesn’t have to be expensive. Learn how you can travel in Japan on the cheap here.
If you have any questions about these types of grapes or grapes in Japan, let me know in the comments below.