Japan’s Top Ume Innovator and Producer


Sun drying umeboshi in the blazing summer sun

Sun drying umeboshi in the blazing summer sun

Ume (sour Japanese plum) have been a part of Japanese culture for more than 1300 years, and have been an integral part of Tanabe’s landscape for centuries. Nanko-ume is the premier variety of ume, featuring a rich, apricot-like aroma and tart fruity flavor. Most of Japan’s Nanko-ume come from this area, and Nakata Foods uses only tree-ripened ones for its salted umeboshi, umeshu ume liqueur, and ume jams and sauces, imparting them with fragrance and flavor not found in other brands.

In 1897, in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, in southern Japan, Nakata Gentaro founded our company. Since then we have supported the local economy by creating new ume (say oo-meh) trends and driving market demand. Our motto is ‘Our home’s flavor; our heart’s flavor.’ We are excited to share that around the world and with you.

See the products we make with ume!


Ripe Ume On Tree

About Ume

From 1300 years ago, the people of Japan have depended on ume. Where other fruits become more mellow as they ripen, ume’s acidity, especially their citric acid content, rises. This acidity is responsible for many of ume’s health benefits, and helps preserve the volatile compounds that give ume their complex flavor.

Ume are chemically and gastronomically unique, similar to apricots in fragrance, oranges in color, and berries in acidity. Once you taste them, you’ll agree that there’s nothing quite like ume.


Amazing Wakayama

South of Osaka in western Japan lines Kishu Wakayama on the Kii Peninsula, a subtropical peninsula rich in nature and history, whose climate is perfect for ume. As a hidden wonder of Japan, Kishu is quickly becoming a top-ranked destination for ecotourists, who return with full stomachs and amazing memories.



Sustainable Agricultural Heritage

About 400 years ago, the forward-thinking lord of what is now Tanabe City gave permission for farmers to grow ume on the rocky mountainous soil to promote the local economy. Soon, an environmentally balanced agricultural system was formed, and was recognized in 2015 as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, the 'Minabe-Tanabe Ume System'.

The hillsides were not suitable for many other kinds of agriculture, so ume orchards spread quickly. Farmers utilized the nearby forests for sustainable wood harvesting for the local industry of charcoal-making, or Kishu-binchotan. Honeybee population protection, watershed conservation, slope collapse prevention, and natural fertilization all became intertwined, and it is these interrelationships that were recognized as the Minabe-Tanabe Ume System.

Ume production of this region accounts for more than half of the total ume production of Japan, and most of its Nanko-ume production. Yield per unit area is about twice that of other ume producing areas.

Learn more about the GIAHS Ume System in Tanabe

Hongu Torii Gate

Kumano Kodo and Ecotourism

Wakayama is home to the Kumano region, the ancient home of the gods and the spiritual heartland of Japan. For more than one thousand years emperors and commoners have been making pilgrimages on the Kumano Kodo, which is now one of the highest-rated ecotourism treks in the world. It was listed on the Unesco World Heritage in 2004 and is one of only two World Heritage pilgrimage routes.

The Kodo was first traveled extensively by retired emperors and their huge retinues, gradually became popular with commoners, and is now a top-ranked destination for international travelers. The trails pass through Koyasan, wind over isolated mountain ranges, follow the coast, and pass through villages of varying size toward three Grand Shrines in the south, the closest reachable location to the Buddhist paradise believed to exist across the ocean. Today travelers can enjoy elaborate meals of local foods and some of the best hot spring baths in the country as they walk the trails

Umeboshi have strong antibacterial properties and are common to find in bentos, where they act as a preservative. Visitors will probably have a variety of flavors of umeboshi served during their trip to the Kumano Kodo.

Learn more about the Kumano Kodo

Hashigui Iwa

Diverse National Park

Yoshino Kumano National Park was designated in 1936 and spans Wakayama, Nara, and Mie prefectures. It encompasses spectacular coastline, majestic rivers, and craggy mountain ranges where ascetic Buddhist monks still roam, practicing Shugendo, a unique type of esoteric Buddhism. It overlaps the Kumano Kodo, including the Hongu Grand Shrine and nearby onsen hot spring baths, and also features some of the amazing natural areas near Tanabe's ume orchards.

Learn more about Yoshino Kumano National Park

Image: 橋杭岩by Seiji Kobayashi, CC BY 2.0