The island town of Setoda (Onomichi City) is well-known for Kosanji Temple,
nicknamed the "Nikko of West Japan". It also has been a popular production site
of citrus fruits, such as navel oranges and lemons. The climate is mild there and
the fruit growers on the island are hard-working and innovative.
It is believed that navel orange growing was first introduced to the island
around 1897. At that time, however, the strain of the fruit was "Washington",
which was a rather difficult variety of navel orange to grow. After World War
II, two excellent varieties of navel oranges, "Tange" and "Murakami Tora",
were introduced. Until then, the growers of Setoda had a hard time establishing
and maintaining production of navel oranges.
Navel oranges grow best in fertile land protected from the wind. Such land
is, of course, limited on the island of Setoda.
It was after World War II that navel orange growing really flourished on the
island. Two varieties of rapidly growing navel oranges were discovered by a
grower on Mukaishima Island. With these varieties, it has now become possible
for growers to ship navel oranges from December through April. The navel
oranges of Setoda are a popular item during year-end gift season in Japan.
Navel oranges of Setoda are well recognized in the markets of Tokyo and Osaka (Photograph taken circa 1994)
A navel orange may not peel as smoothly, but its taste is sweeter and more fragrant than that of a mandarin. Sweet navel oranges are full of vitamins and can be eaten or made into juice.
Navel oranges originally came from Brazil. According to one unverified record, people ate the fruit even before 2,000 B.C. in China. The state of Florida in the U.S.A. is the number one orange producing site in the world, followed by the state of California.