The other day I visited Utogi up the Abe River in Shizuoka City in the company of Alexandra Comde, a French journalist who works in France and Dominique Corby (Chef and owner of French Kappo Dominique Corby), a great Restauarnt in Tokyo, to interview Yuuma Mochizuki, a local wasabi farmer.
We spent the whole morning shooting pictures of the wasabi fields owned by Maru Ichi Co., whose Yuma Mochizuki (30) is the 13th generation. All the fields are exclusively watered with the help of torrents rushing down the mountain, meaning an ecological and organic cultivation.
Wasabi fields as far as the eye can see! Although some of the fields are as old as 400 years, they are still protected by their original stone walls!
It is the best season to admire them for one important detail, can you guess?
Wasabi Flowers! Did you know that the leaves and the flowers of the wasabi are even more beneficial to the human body than the wasabi roots? You can eat them either fresh, with miso, pickled or fired and in tempura. Absolutely succulent!
Dominique Corby, Alexandra Combe and Yuma Mochizuki tasting some of the wasabi that was elected the best in Japan last year for the second time in three years! Note the traditional shark skin grater!
The monument stating Utogi as the birthplace of wasabi cultivation.
We decided to have lunch at the only, but famous, local restaurant before proceeding with the rest of the interview.
Utsurogi, a rustic but very busy restaurant. Tiny and quaint, but so authentic!
You place your orders to a kitchen-like counter. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese, the staff are used to all kinds of tourists and they will manage to get their message through!
Have a good look at the local products on sale! Either fresh or processed, they make for very original souvenirs.
Having ordered your meal beforehand, walk along the rushing torrent and choose a seat either outside or inside. You’ll see wasabi fields under their vinyl protection right across the torrents.
Great scenery to be seen here and a tiny Japanese garden!
This is the lunch we had ordered from the front of shop, where they hang photos of all the meals available. At 800 yen, less than 8 Us $, less than 6 Euros, its a true bargain! And so fresh and authentic.
Our lunch, can you figure out what we had?
The excellent “8 wari”/80% buckwheat flour soba/buckwheat noodles! They are boiled and then washed in cold clean natural water before being served with different seasonings.
Local Utogi-grown wasabi stem pickles, freshly grated wasabi and chopped scallions with your soba dressing/dip! You will not find such fresh wasabi products anywhere else in Shizuoka Prefecture!
The tempura, including sweet potato, onion and carrot “kakiage”/mixed tempura, shiitake and wasabi leaf!
The fresh wasabi leaf from a nearby field! You will not find that quality and freshness anywhere else.
Note the local matcha tea powder for tempura seasoning. The local wasabi farmers also grow superb green tea.
The ultimate trip to discover wasabi!
|Address||421-2303 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Utogi, 280-1|
|Access||[map]421-2303 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Utogi, 280-1[/map]|
|Opening Hours||10:00~15:00, 09:00~16:00 on weekends and National Holidays|
|Price Range||〜 1000 yen|