It was a warm, sunny day as I arrived at the wasabi farm located in a valley surrounded by a mountain range known as the Japanese Alps. From the farm, you can clearly see the dusting of snow covering the North Alps. This farm in an area called Azumino, is one of the largest in Japan and is also a popular attraction.
It is busy with visitors strolling the paths overlooking channels of mountain water peppered with wasabi plants. Azumino’s cool temperature and clean source of freshwater is an ideal place for growing wasabi. The root is planted in soil and gravel under a current of cold, fresh water. The farmers will cover the stream beds with black cloth doing hot and cold months to keep the air and water temperature at 13 degrees to protect the delicate plant.
In the perfect autumn sunshine, we decided to take a rest by sitting along the stream beds and sampled an unusual but delicious wasabi delicacies for sale: Steamed buns filled with wasabi leaves, local chicken and vegetables, grilled wasabi hot dogs, crispy wasabi crackers, and even freshly made wasabi ice cream!! All so delicious.
After indulging in our delicious wasabi delicacies, we drove down the steep mountain roads to tonight’s destination of town of Naraijyuku. The town is located in an area called Kiso. It is a historical area located along the Kiso river that has served as a postal town and merchant village. One killometer stretch of Naraijyukuis sits right on Japan’s Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site and is recognized as a National Asset. All the building at this post town has been kept with the architectural integrity of Edo period of Japan.
Kiso is also famous for its lacquer dishwares. Lacquer finish is highly regarded in this region as lacquer sap is collected from trees and then hand applied to wooden dishware by craftsmen. This land-locked mountainous area is also known for Hinoki trees, a type of Japanese cypress tree. The wood is used to make the fine, decorative Japanese lacquerware that is so well known. The town’s history, architecture and fine crafts and worthy of a visit.
In the evening, we stopped at a lacquer center and had freshly made buckwheat noodle soup with wild mushrooms and mountain vegetables from the area for dinner. After dinner we strolled through a nearby a farmers’ market was selling golden persimmons, nameko mushrooms and other regional favorites.
Tomorrow, I will be meeting a professional chef/farmer to make rental arrangements for staying at his private Japanese farmhouse and country inn to make preparations for our Spring culinary travel tour to Japan.