The free foot spa in the village of Inakadate, Aomori Prefecture, tempts visitors to dangle their toes in the natural onsen hot springs. Sulfuric steam rises over the bucolic scene, with rice paddies in the near distance and the prefecture’s tallest peak, Mount Iwaki, on the horizon.

But the geothermal heat is more than just a balm to the weary body: It also adds a touch of sweetness to life in the bitterly cold north in the form of plump, year-round strawberries.

Strawberries have been grown in Inakadate — a farming village primarily known for its elaborate rice-paddy art — for about 30 years. A local farmer brought strawberry-growing knowledge back from Tochigi Prefecture after a stint migrant farming down south. Back then, agricultural greenhouses received assistance from the village’s revitalization fund, says Tetsuya Takeuchi, an agricultural commission secretary from Inakadate village.