Spoiler alert. There is nothing Japanese about this pie. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can explain (or attempt to explain) the origins of this pie and why it will always hold a special place in my heart and a spot on my Thanksgiving table.
To put it lightly (OK, not so lightly), my family is extremely picky. Let’s just say we like what we like, so there are usually between 3 and 4 pies on the table during the holidays - something for everyone. Pumpkin, apple, Japanese fruit pie, and maybe a chocolate chess pie thrown in for the chocolate lovers.
My grandmother was originally from Greenville, South Carolina and this recipe was passed down from her grandmother. For as long as I can remember this pie has been on our table at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While the name might throw you for a loop, the taste is satisfyingly familiar. Think chess pie with some additional mix-ins. While my grandmother couldn't tell me exactly where the name comes from, with a little bit of research we can guess that the coconut in the pie makes it (or made it at one time, probably the Depression Era) a little exotic. Also the only “fruit” in the fruit pie is dried, assuming that dried fruit (raisins in this case) were easier to keep and store, especially during the winter months.
While the name isn’t recognizable for some, when you have a slice you’ll know that this is indeed a sweet pie with Southern roots. If you’re a fan of pecan pie or chess pie, try this recipe and see how it measures up. One year we caught my grandmother eating directly out of the pie dish - it’s that good.
Mixing in coconut, raisins, and nuts give this sweet, gooey pie a crunchy texture while the crust is beautifully browned and light. Serve Japanese fruit pie at the end of the holiday meal and make sure there are leftovers - it pairs perfectly with a steaming cup of coffee the next morning.