Shizuoka Agricultural Products: The Yamaguchis’ Benihoppe Strawberry Fields (beginning of October)

Haruka/晴香, Tamako/玉子 and Mitsuo/光雄 Yamaguchi/山口

This the second part as promised of my interview of the Yamaguchi Family, a major grower of strawberries, exclusively of the Benihoppe variety, in Nirayama, Izu Peninsula. Read the first part for better understanding!

As mentioned before, “Benihoppe” or “Red Cheeks” strawberries is a cultivar which was successfully developed no later than in 2002 in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has since been voted as the best-balanced strawberry in Japan, and Izu Peninsula being near Tokyo, we do not see too many of our fruit on our own market stands!

To cut a long story short I was back at Mishima JR Station yesterday where Haruka Yamaguchi picked me up to give me a lift to her parents strawberry fields.

The Yamaguchis own a total of 15 greenhouses for a total of 1,500 tsubo (4,500 square meters), a fairly large property for a single family in this particular area counting for no less than 187 registered farms!
When you realize that their greenhouses stand in many different locations you can understand the sheer work of only opening and closing the roofs depending upon the weather, humidity and temperature every day! No need to say that when torrential rains fall upon them it becomes a real scramble!

The new strawberry seedlings were finally planted on the 15th of September. A couple of seedlings had been cut out and analyzed to ascertain that the flowers buds were forming.

Now, what is that box for?
A beehive will stand on it 5 days before the first strawberry flowers start blooming.
One just can’t pollinate the flowers without them!
Artificial pollination would be too cumbersome and will not be uniform with the consequence of misshaped fruits.
The Yamaguchis breed their own bees in 16 beehives, one for each greenhouse.
Don’t worry, they eat and share the honey!

Fruit size will depend on how well the flowers are pollinated.
Only the strict minimum of fertilizer will be dispensed until the soil is covered with vinyl sheets.
Weeds will have to be picked out by hand until then.
No pesticides will be used either.
Insects-eating insects will then be introduced!

The Yamaguchis will use large vinyl sheets to close the soil between the seedlings and rows. Instead of making holes in the sheets which tend to damage the seedlings, they join the sheets between the plants with staplers.
Now, do you see the blue tube running between the plants?

They are actually water hoses (or pipes, as you like)

The water springs out of the tube exactly between the plants.
That is, there will be enough space left between the vinyl sheets for the seedlings to be watered twice a week for 15 minutes.
Clever, isn’t it?

Maintaining the plants and picking the fruit is impossible work to do standing or kneeling.
The Yamaguchis and many other strawberry growers use that clever contraption to “run/roll” between the rows and work in relative ease!

Strawberry season lasts from about November 15th and 31st of May.
The best season are December and May as for sweetness. February see the largest fruits while the largest production occurs in March.

Look forward to my next report in December!

Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm
410-2114, Izu no Kuni, Nan-jo, 8
Tel.: 055-949-2330

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
Warren Bobrow, Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope

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Shizuoka Sake Tasting: Bandai Brewery-Junmai Ginjo Genshu Homare Fuji

Bandai Brewery is located in one of the most scenic cities of Shizuoka Prefecture, Izu Peninsula formerly called Shuzenji. The city has recently been included into a larger city called Izu City, but people and tourists certainly don’t mix the two when they say they are going to Shuzenji!
One can reach this city also famous for its hotsprings and Japanese inns by taking a local train from Mishima City.
When you go down at Shuzenji Station, don’t forget to visit the souvenir shop where you will find all the products of Bandai Brewery, including real wasabi shochu!

Bandai Brewery is one of the oldest breweries in the Prefecture and its history under other names can be traced back to the 16th Century!
Like most of the other sake breweries in Shizuoka Prefecture, it has started to use locally grown sake rice to ensure a stable output.

Rice: Homare Fuji 100% (grown in Shizuoka Prefecture)
Rice milled down to 60%
Dryness: +3
Alcohol: 16~17 degrees (genshu: no water added)
Bottled in July 2010

Clarity: very clear
Colour: faint golden hue
Aroma: Strong and fruity: banana, vanilla, hints of pineapple
Body: fluid
Taste: Strongish attack with junmai petillant and a lot of fruit. Warms back of the palate. Well-rounded backed up by pleasant alcohol.
Complex: banana, gum-candy, almonds with memories of coffee beans later.
Softens with food to turn dry again on its own.
Almonds and banana tend to follow each other alternatively.

Overall: A sake you might as well drink chilled as it is quite sweet in spite of a +3 dryness level (quite dry by Shizuoka standards).
One of those sake you can pour over an ice-cream!
Very pleasant. Tends to get drier with food.
Would very well accompany blue cheese like a Port wine, or being drunk as a digestif!

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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Shizuoka Prefecture Agricultural High School (1)

I’ve lived 34 years in Shizuoka City, and I still remember that about 20 years ago farmers’ sons had to be dragged screaming into that venerable establishment!
How times have changed since then!

Founded in 1903 (3rd year of Taisho Era), it has been rebuilt many a time and has grown into a highly respected high school in the whole Prefecture and well beyond.

There are many reasons to that and probably not the ones you would expect.
First of all, the environment is truly propitious to study with all the greenery between the buildings. I’m not talking about the 3 ha of cultivated land! By Japanese standards, it is a large school by area standards.

Although it used to be mainly a boys’ high school, the trend has completely changed with 493 girls for 231 boys!
The introduction of three new subjects in the curriculum in 1996 is probably the most notable factor behind this change: Agricultural production, that is real farming, Environment and Food Departments.

Although plenty of history is still visible within its compounds, Shizuoka Prefectural (Public) High School is resolutely modern and extremely well-equipped, even included animal husbandry!
My relation with the high school started this year when I met some of their teachers at a party. Teachers and staff on the whole are unusually warm, easy-going but firm on etiquette, smiling and most of all pro-active. Pro-active? I mean that these ladies and gents are not afraid to show everyone that they themselves are keen to learn!

Flowers!

I had already visited the school quite a few times when the Shizuoka Prefecture-run Agricultural Homepage, AGRIGRAPH (6 languages) sent me on a series of reports.
Now, visiting the school compounds is like exploring a farming enterprise!

Tomatoes and other vegetables.

The greenhouses might be squarer and higher bt the techniques and technology are the same!
Actually Shizuoka has 3 Prefectural High Schools, a sure sign of the times when people are getting more aware of their food and environment!

A spinach variety.

Akihime strawberries. Looking forward to another visit soon! LOL

Cucumbers

Actually the students either take their produce back home or sell it. In the latter case, all the proceeds go to the Prefecture!

Tomatoes again!

This particular vegetable bed is allotted to 41 students.

Except for one, they all work in pairs on their alotted bed with their names written on small poles in front of each culture!

Plenty of tools for plenty of students!

Don’t they look neat!

Dressed as real farmers, aren’t we!

Teachers there are happily obeyed and listened to! I never heard a misplaced word by any lecturer, a rarity in Japanese high schools!

Daikon and spinach seeds.

Would you believe that one of those two little ladies greeted me not only in English, but also in French!

Don’t forget this is green tea land, as Shizuoka Prefecture produces no less than 45% of all green tea in Japan!

What strikes most in this establishment is that almost every available space is filled with greenery and flowers, a luxury in space-cramped Japan!

I had to pay a long visit to my new friend’s, Mr. Ishida, class and school club. Mr. Ishida teaches solely the art of making bread (and some cakes)! That particular class is an elective subject. There are only 33 students (1st to 3rd year) but the learn how to make 33 different breads during the whole 3-year cursus!

The present subject was wholegrain wheat bread!
Fermented no less than 3 times!

Girls from another class who came to collect their chocolate cakes!

Shaping the small loaves for the oven.
Quite a few boys among the students!

The mini loaves coated with wholegrain flour before being baked at 210 degrees Celsius!
I went back home with half a dozen of them (plus a baguette and chocolate cake!)!

The chocolate cakes!

Absolutely yummy!

A sample line of the breads created by the students.
Incidentally Shizuoka Prefecture Agricultural School is famous all over Japan for taking most prizes at the Annual Japan High School National Bread Contest!

Attentive, aren’t they?

Well, this is the first of a series of articles!
Look forward to the next ones!

Shizuoka Prefecture Agricultural High School
420-0812 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Furusho, 3-1-1
Tel: 054-261-0111/0113
Fax: 054-264-2226
Homepage: http://www.shizuoka-c.ed.jp/shizuoka-ah/ (Japanese)

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
Warren Bobrow, Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope; Jacqueline Church; The Foodonymph (in Dubai!); Alchemy, Simple Ingredients, magical Food (in Ireland!); Curious Foodie; Mr. Foodie (London/UK)

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Robert Yellin’s Newsletter: Pottery Lecture-Dinner in Tokyo and others

Greetings from Mishima,

The first day of October here arrives in what seems like a dream-passing of time; wasn’t it summer just a few days ago? We hope this finds all well in whatever season it may be where you are. Here in Japan autumn is one of the most delightful times of the year, not only for the beautiful scenery, yet also for the delicious food and art; autumn is called the ‘Culture Season’ with many exhibitions throughout the land. I recently wrote a Japan Times column on one such exhibition that can be read here: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fa20100903a1.html

What’s New on Our Site
This is a rather short newsletter of greeting and also to invite those who have signed our guest book to visit the online gallery if you haven’t recently. The variety of work is truly dazzling from recent additions such as Hasu Yoshitaka’s powerful Iga ash-glazed works, such as the box seen. Also featured is a brilliant Wa-Harmony Ring by Kako Katsumi, a rare 1966 Bizen vase-flask by Mori Togaku, published Bizen work by Kakurezaki Ryuichi, a large celadon charger by Living National Treasure Nakajima Hiroshi, major Nezumi-Shino platter by Wakao Toshisada and two platinum-glazed kogo by wonder-women Ogawa Machiko. We’ll also have some new works to show by Gomi Kenji soon as well.

So, please do pay a visit to www.japanesepottery.com to refresh your spirit with some autumn beauty from Japan.

Lecture-Dinner in Tokyo
Also, on the evening of Oct.22nd world-renowned sake authority John Gauntner and I will be hosting a lecture-dinner in Tokyo and for anyone who might be available, or know someone in Tokyo who might be interested, please do email me directly for more details. John’s extensive web site can be visited at www.sake-world.com.

Online Exhibitions, 2011 Yakimono Calendar
We have no large exhibitions planned at the gallery for the remainder of the year, yet will be offering works by various artists in our Exhibition Page each month, as well as weekly updates of works that are always a pleasure to view. I’ll be visiting Bizen and Mino this month so please look for treasures from those parts soon.

We’ll have a lovely Yakimono calendar for 2011 and will add your name to the list of those who will receive one, if you acquire a work from the gallery from now until mid-December.

Many thanks as always for your interest and as always;
All the best from Japan.

Cordially,
Robert Yellin

Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK)

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’10/72): Te-Mari sushi Bento

The Missus came up with an old favourite of hers with today’s sushi bento: Te-Mari sushi!
Mind you, these are a lot bigger than the ones they serve to geisha in Kyoto! LOL

As you can see she combined Jpaanese and Western tastes in the Te-Mari balls!

One type came with rice steamed wit konbu, then later prepared as sushi rice. She then mixed half with sweet umeboshi flesh and topped the balls with a slice of boiled and lightly pickled renkon/lotus root.

As for the other type, she mixed the rest of the rice with small cubes of cheese and topped the balls with smoked salmon has just brought us from Ireland, and some lemon and capers. A small piece of lettuce was introduced under the ball for extra taste.

Now, the garnish did involve some work:
She cut an avocado in half across the length, and peel it before filling it first with the whites (crumbled) of a soft-boiled egg, then the yolk (crumbeled) of the same egg before topping it with a slice of pimento-stuffed green olive for colour!
She added boiled spinach salad seasoned with gomadare/sesame dessing, and another salad of boiled and broiled satoimo/taro seasoned with roasted black sesame seeds.

Where is my dessert? LOL

Great balance, colourful and tasty again!

Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK)

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Food Humor: Acid Milk!

A few years ago we used to see those big ads in Japan for “Homo Milk” standing for “Homogeneous Milk”. That is, until someone pointed out this might mislead some people into the wrong conclusions…

I found this truck in front of a kindergarten this morning on the way to my classroom.
After some investigation I found out (with the help of my Japanese student), that yoghurt is also called fermented milk in Japanese!
Acid Milk simply stands for Yoghurt!
Even so, it might be a good idea (but I suppose it is too late!) to think of a change of name, unless some people (again!) think of an even worse possibility! LOL

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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Shizuoka Sake Tasting: Yamanaka Brewery-Aoitenka Toubinkoi Muroka Junmai Ginjo

Yamanaka Brewery i not easy to access as it is far away from Kakegawa Station near the sea and one can reach only by bus, car and bicycle (not from Shizuoka City for the latter!)!
It is a fairly small establishement, although very well known, the more for it that its neighbour is the famous soy sauce brewery, Sakae!

This particular bottle was extravagant for many reasons.
The decoration was very original in the sense that the label on the bottle is actually made of cloth!
Coming into a great box with plenty of explanations, both the bottle and box are worth a collector’s attention.

The contents were also absolutely extravagant:
The real title is Yamanaka Shuzo/Yamanak Brewery, Aointenka (sake name), Tobinkoi (sake extracted drop by drop by being left hanging into sacke inside the tank and into a large glass jar), Muroka (unfiltered), Junami Ginjo (high premium with no alcohol added), Genshu (no pure water added), the whole meaning a completely untouched sake brew!

Now for the details:
Rice: Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo Prefecture
Rice milled down to 48% (high dai ginjo level!)
Yeast: 1401
Dryness: +2
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 16~17 gegrees
Bottled in July 2010

Clarity: very clear
Colour: transparent
Aroma: Slghtly dry and very fruity. Almonds, coconuts with notes of pineapple. Extremely pleasant
Body: fluid
Taste: Very complex and fruity. Extremely pleasant and sophisticated.
Dry and fruity. Junmai petillant spreading over the back of the palate. Lingers on only a little.
Dry almonds, pineapple with hints of banana and vanilla.
Finishes on a very dry almond note, but turns a little sweetish with food. Later on reveals faint notes of dark chocolate and cofee beans.

Overall: Simply extravagant, although its pricetag is ridiculously cheap (that is for that quality!). The rice millage would be of another plane elsewhere!
Sophisticated, lmost “feminine” in spite of high alcohol content.
Best appreciated lightly chilled or at room temperature.
Personally the best aperitif one can come across!

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’10/71): Canned Heat bento

The weather has finally turned to Autumn/Fall, especially at night when it’s easier to sleep! Mind you this the typhoon season with some scalding daytime hetin-between.
Now, why did I callthis Bento Canned Heat?
Some of you (the nostalgic ones) will remember the rock group of the same name at Woodstock!

Canned yakitori is a very popular item in Japanese supermarkets and they can be arranged into surprisingly good food!
The Missus always has a few in her “larder”.
I chose the yuzu ksohio yakitori canned yakitori.
The Missus steamed the rice with the yakitori on top.
She then mixed the lot adding her own pickled sansho/Japanese pepper and “tukudani” made with ginger and konbu/seaweed.
It does make for a very tasty and filling rice. And very nourishing, too.
She added some pickled daikon for colour effect.
She added some delicious tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette she concocted with shiso/perill leaves.

She prepared the salad and dessert garnish inside the other (Shizuoka) Mempa bento Box with its T-shaped partition (all lacquerd).
Soba hime/buckwheat sprouts with katsuo bushi/dry bonito shavings in one quarter.
She filled the half section with a salad of beans, konbu, and boiled yellow and pink potatoes (the latter from her family’s garden), the lot on some lettuce leaves and topped with local plum tomato.
As for dessert nashi pears and plums!

Very filling and tasty!
Poor Susan at My Bento Box, who is being deprived of her bentos for 3 weeks is going to scream!

Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK)

Please check the new postings at:
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