Famous For Food
Shizuoka is known throughout Japan for its quality green tea, producing the most wasabi in the country, and for the expertise it brings to nihonshu – more commonly known as Sake. Explore the mountainous terrain, clear flowing water and abundant nature which produce some of the country’s best food and drink
Shizuoka is a popular destination for urbanites from Tokyo and Nagoya to retreat to and reinvigorate themselves with some of the finest food Japan has to offer. From fields of green tea and wasabi in the mountainous interior of the prefecture, to the Izu peninsula and the pacific coastline with abundant fresh seafood, exploring Shizuoka simply for its food would be a worthy adventure.
In Japanese culture, humbleness is highly valued. Asking someone about their hobby and their level of skill, will likely garner a response along the lines of ‘I’m not really that good’, when in fact they could have progressed to a point where they compete at a national or even international level, such is the degree of humility.
Which is why, when you read on official Shizuoka websites that ‘Shizuoka is Japan’s No.1 green tea prefecture’, its best to stand up and take notice. All over the country, Shizuoka tea is valued to such a degree that you begin to wonder if tea from this area endows special powers to those who drink it. In supermarkets, it commands a price premium, if it is even still on the shelf, Japanese will haul back as much as they can carry after a weekend away in Shizuoka, and writers and food critics alike continue to praise it year after year.
Shizuoka produces the most tea in Japan, estimated at around 40% of all the tea cultivated in Japan. In fact, Shizuoka has a long history of tea cultivation – and it is thought to have begun as early as the 1200s. With hundreds of years of experience in the making, Shizuoka’s tea is not only Japan’s finest, but one of the world’s finest.
In the World Green Tea Contest 2016, Shizuoka tea farms won the majority of the Grand Gold and Gold prizes, indicating innovation and quality are important to the prefecture, too. In fact, being the largest large tea-producing area offers Shizuoka the advantage of attracting skilled talent to research and improve the process, cultivation techniques, and of course the taste and quality of the teas.
And now, international visitors to the area are starting to come and see how the epic nature of the area combined with generations of expertise is part of this winning formula. Tea farms are opening their doors for visitors to see first-hand and take part in the cultivation process, with tea picking, tea rolling and of course, tea tasting experiences. See here for more info on joining green tea experiences in Shizuoka.
Shizuoka’s temperate climate, awe-inspiring mountainous terrain and infinite supply of fresh, clean flowing water means it has some of the largest wasabi farms and produces close to half of all the wasabi root grown in Japan. The largest areas for wasabi cultivation in the area are the Izu peninsula and the mountains of Utogi, North of Shizuoka City. In fact, the plant needs very specific conditions in order to grow – north-facing terrain, stable weather and an abundance of cold and clean flowing water – and even in the right environment it can take up to 3 years for a wasabi plant to grow large enough to be harvested.
A trip to Japan has to include trying some of the different forms of Wasabi. Actually, there are number of foods that count Wasabi as an ingredient, and its quite different to the wasabi often served with sushi. Freshly grated wasabi is not hot like its packaged counterpart, but offers a complex taste that often surprises and delights. When it’s fresh, the wasabi will be at its best 5 minutes after grating and will start to lose its true flavour after just 15 minutes. Then there’s wasabi ice cream – a treat that defies expectations – and what you thought flavour could be. Last but not least, wasabi leaf can often be found in finely battered tempura, and the dynamic of the crispy hot batter with the spice of the leaf, is something everyone needs to try at least once in their life.
Shuzenji, in the eastern part of Shizuoka, offers experiences for Wasabi lovers and those new to the plant but willing to give it a try. Find more information on Wasabi here and then explore Shizuoka and experience some of the best wasabi in Japan here.
No introduction to food and drink in Shizuoka would be complete without at least a shout out to Sake (also known as Nihonshu in Japan) and the award winning sake that is produced in the region. Again, the mystical like level of the environment here and clear flowing water lends itself wonderfully to the growing of rice, the main ingredient for sake, and so the sake from Shizuoka is some of the purest, cleanest and freshest sake one can find. Across the prefecture at the numerous breweries, expert craftsman are applying knowledge handed down over hundreds of years with modern technology to create sake that is enjoyed and lauded not only in Japan but around the world. To take part in a sake brewery tour and tasting click here and to see a list of the breweries in Shizuoka go here
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