Mikan vs. Orange: What’s the Difference?
Mikan (みかん/蜜柑) is a citrus fruit resembling an orange that peaks now in December when it’s most purchased and becomes a staple in households in Japan (which also applies to my home).
Mikan vs. Orange
Mikan or 蜜柑 means honey-like sweet citrus, and today in Japan, it usually refers to Unshu Mikan (温州みかん), whose botanical name is citrus unshiu, also known as Satsuma mandarin.
On the other hand, the Japanese orange is usually Ama-Daidai (甘橙), whose botanical name is citrus sinensis, known in English-speaking countries as sweet orange.
Place of Origin
Their place of origin is India, but Mikan later spread around Asia and came to Japan from China, whereas orange arrived here via Europe.
While Unshu Mikan is Japan’s most common Mikan variety derived from Wenzhou, China, we Japanese are most familiar with valencia orange as Ama-Daidai, whose birthplace is the United States.
While the season of valencia orange is summer, Unshu Mikan overlaps with Yuzu and is available in the market from around October to February and reaches its peak in December.
The Mikan is small with a soft, thin peel, compared to the orange, and is weak in aroma or light in taste. But it is seedless with a well-balanced flavor and can be eaten more.
Japan’s top 3 producers of Unshu Mikan are Wakayama, Ehime, and Shizuoka Prefectures.
And their famous brands are Arida Mikan (有田みかん), Nishi-Uwa Mikan (西宇和みかん), and Mikkabi Mikan (三ヶ日みかん).