Sucking on Sour: The Miracle Berry aka Miracle Fruit

Tokyo Mission #2: Miracle Fruit!

I’d heard about Miracle Fruit at a hipster science conference in New York a few years ago, and had dreams of them ever since. History: in the 1700s, an explorer moved into a West African village. Everything was great, except the food — it was horrible! Sour, disgusting, absolutely inedible! After a few days in the village, though, he realized the locals were all sucking on berries before eating. He joined in, and suddenly, this vile meal became glorious! So sweet, so tasty — absolutely divine! Turns out this berry makes everything sour taste sweet!

In America, though, it’s banned. Sugar and confection lobbyists have kept the berry outlawed, leaving Japan to trailblaze with a handful of Berry shops. And, after a few hours of looking, I finally found one.

Hidden on the top floor of Ikebukoro’s Sun City Mall, in the back of the terrible Namjatown Theme Park, there’s a restaurant: The Miracle Fruit Cafe. For $2.50, they’ll sell you one berry.

And to see the effects, you can buy a number of sour-as-hell taste-bud testers. I ordered them all. Lemons, limes, sour candies, undrinkably sour juices in test tubes, weird orange-colored sliced things, and one horrible umeboshi plum.

The umeboshi plum was about the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Here, this is how bad it tastes.

Seriously, I’ll rather eat durian.

So, nervously, I sucked on the berry for two minutes, picked up a slice of lemon, and cautiously took a lick. “Not bad,” I thought. I moved forward to a small nibble. “Wow, this is good.” The next thing you know, I’d shoved the whole thing in my mouth, and was chewing away. Delicious!!!

If I look kinda scared, I was. This was the best thing I’d ever eaten!!! So sweet!!! All the taste of a lemon, but the sweetness of an orange. A really, really tasty orange. YES! I chewed away at both lemon slices, the lime, the sour candies, the orange things. The liquids that I’d earlier gagged on were suddenly sweet and delicious!

And, after I’d moved through everything else, I came back to that horrid umeboshi plum. But now, it was heaven. I could suddenly taste all the depth of the flavor, with none of the horror. It was smooth, and complex, and layered. I bit, and chewed, and ate and ate and, and it was gone. I was sad. I’d loved it.

The miracle fruit, just like the Ghibli Museum, was an incredible hit. I didn’t care that I’d had to pay admission fee to a theme park to get this berry, or that I’d had to fly to Japan. It was all worth the hype.

Extraordinary Eats /

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