History in Japan
Haskap berries have grown wild in various regions in Hokkaido as well as Sakhalin and Siberia where the indigenous Ainu people lived. According to Mashiho Chiri, the Ainu linguist and ethnologist, two kinds of haskap berries are known among the Ainu people. One kind is e-nu-mi-tan-ne, meaning “ e (head)-numi(shape)-tanne(long)”, the kind of haskap berries that are long and pointed at the end, and the other kind is has-ka-o-p, meaning “has(branches)-ka(at the end)-o(abundant)-p(things)” that are short and round. They are both Ainu names used among the Ainu people in different parts of Hokkaido. The Japanese who migrated into Hokkaido adopted one of the two names and have been calling them haskap berries ever since.
Haskap berries were known by the Ainu as having nutritional and medicinal properties and were thought to promote a long and healthy life. The Ainu people in the area where haskap grows abundantly, such as the Yufutsu Plain in central Hokkaido, picked and enjoyed the berries as a snack. Since there is no record of the Ainu people preserving and cooking haskap berries, it is likely that they only ate them as fresh fruit.
The Japanese people, who settled in central Hokkaido, learned about the nutritional value of haskap from the Ainu. They cultivated wild haskap berries, improved the taste, and began producing haskap candies and haskap yokan (a sweet cake made with haskap berries). In 1986 the city of Tomakomai designated haskap as their city plant and began promoting various products using haskap berries. Haskap jam is a popular product, and the cookies and cakes using haskap jam are popular among visitors.
With thanks to Dr Masami Iwasaki-Goodman, Anthropologist, Hokkai-Gakuen University, Japan