The Yamaguchis’ Benihoppe Strawberry Fields (beginning of December)

Mrs. Tamako Yamaguchi/山口玉子 and her daughter Haruka/晴香

Last Monday, December 6th, I traveled to the Izu Peninsula for the second time in eight days.
The occasion was my third visit to Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm.

Their daughter, Haruka (she is also a student of mine at University!), was on hand to pick me up at Mishima JR Station and drive me all the way to Nirayama/韮山 in Izu No Kuni City/伊豆の国市.

It was another gorgeous day of that unending Autumn and Mount Fuji kept an eye on us all the time!

Her father, Mitsuo/光雄, being away to a meeting ,Haruka had arranged the interview with her mother who knows as much as her husband.
When we arrived at her home (above picture) her mother, Tamako/玉子, was still busy in one of their greenhouses, so we took a leisurely tour of their home and the neighborhood.

The strawberry packages storeroom.
Plenty of work every morning!

The strawberries are usually picked early every morning, sorted, packed and stored into a large refrigerator before being sent and delivered the next morning.

Near their home I noticed the sign of an abandoned yakiniku restaurant. The name of the sake advertized, Kikugenji/菊源氏 was from a brewery in Izu Peninsula which has been absorbed by Bandai Brewery/万代酒造 quite some time ago. It must have been abandoned a long time ago!

Just next to their home again is the entrance to a shinto shrine called Wakamiya Jinja/若宮神社.
If you look carefully around you will found many of them tucked away in the Japanese countryside!

This one is not that old by Japanese standards (1926), but it did look venerable!

Her mother finally joined us and we all went to one of their many greenhouses.
You will find a box in front of every greenhouse. They are beehives. Mr. Yamaguchi does not bother about frills and makes his boxes practical. The bees don’t seem to mind! The latter are very peaceful, used as they are to humans.
Usually other growers will borrow such boxes for a fee.
Strawberry culture might be possible without the bees, but you will never obtain large fruit of a regular shape!

Those “bee boxes” don’t look much from the outside, but they are so valuable that they have to secured against theft (unfortunately it regularly happens!)!

A very small exit from the beehive and a slightly larger entrance into the greenhouse.

Inside the greenhouse. A lot of green foliage, but don’t worry, plenty of strawberries can be found under it!
On the average each plant produces 20 crops!

Each grower has his/her own techniques.
The Yamaguchis keep the inner temperature at nearly 30 degrees Celsius with this apparatus.

This apparatus will distribute carbon dioxide gas to help fruition.
It is carefully used and as little as possible. The Yamaguchis understand they cannot avoid using it but they do so sparsely and with utmost care.

As a rule, the Yamaguchis do not use pesticides from the very moment the plants are transfered to soil inside the greenhouses. They fight pests in many ways: these sticky yellow cards will catch a lot of insects, especially flies. The bees practically never get caught as they are placed well above the plants. They also use natural enemies such as ladybugs.

These traps are usually devised for mice, but placed atop the beehives, they will catch nastier enemies!

Giant carnivorous wasps/suzumebachi/雀蜂 and what else!

At night they have to surround the greenhouses with electric wires to fend off hakubishin/白鼻芯/civets! Those pests (they can eat a whole crop in a single night!) found their way into Japan through our very Prefecture in 1945 when pets from China were abandoned into the wild!

The space between the rows is filled with rice husks to absorb excess humidity and allow for easier harvesting.

Strawberry flowers.

A bee pollinating a flower.
They produce top-class honey!

A view of the strawberries in the afternoon which had been harvesting the morning.

Because of the very large demand for Christmas cakes, the small round strawberries are the most expensive in this season.
After Christmas, the plants will be regularly pruned to allow only for large strawberries.

But I was offered no less than 4 boxes of these great large specimens!

They are always packed with their sepals, otherwise they would lose half of their Vitamin C and nutrients within half an hour.
Strawberries without their sepals in cakes are not that good for the body, whereas half a dozen medium ones (with their sepals) pack enough Vitamin C for a whole day!

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

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