Blueberries Season

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Blueberries are already being harvested in Sena farms, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City!
For example, Mr. Tsutomu Fujimaki (57) who has been growing the fruit for the last 7 years has started picking 20 varieties of blueberries from no less than 600 plantings.
The ripe fruit reach as much as 1cm diameter.
Apart of the best items found fresh on your tables, a lot will go to make succulent jams.
Some gourmets even preserve in shochu or sake!
Some fine samples can be bought at the Shizuoka JA direct agricultural products sale shop in Shizuoka City.

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Izakaya: Yukichi

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The city of Fujieda have seen a lot of changes these past years with more people coming to live there due to the crowding of nearby Shizuoka City. The old JR Station has disappeared to be replaced by a whole urban complex around both exits. It means that the city has more or less become the “bedtown” of Shizuoka City. It is not all negative as it has encouraged businesses, especially in the restaurateur’ field, to set shop for the benefit of returning workers and company employees.
And some of them are definitely worth visiting.

So, Patrick of Think Twice met me last Friday at Fujieda Station and we went to Yukichi I had a checked an hour before.

Yukichi is an izakaya of a better standard opened in 2005 and it is extremely popular. We were very lucky to get our seats as most were already reserved! Most customers are in their early 30’s.
Now as a general rule, one should patronize only izakaya who serve local sake/jizake. We were not disappointed: Yukichi has some great ones on hand from Aoshima Brewery/Kikuyoi (Fujieda City) and Hatsukame (Okabe Cho)!
I also always make a point to order a chef’s sashimi set recommendation.
The one we were served (see pic above) included not only great fish but succulent chicken sashimi. An acquired taste for some I must agree, but such an unusual combination.

Now, the fact that especially makes you want to come back to Yukichi is that the Lady in charge, Ms. Yoko Naruoka will come to show you a tray with the fresh fish of the day for you to choose from before the “banchyo/chef”, Mr. Masaki Kobayashi prepares your choice either as sashimi or cooked fish as you wish. We opted for “kisu tempura” and “maguro no kama yaki”!

As we had planned to visit another place later, we limited ourselves to a glass of each sake cited above with an extra serving of “tamago yaki” and took our leave with the promise to come back very soon!

Yukichi
Fujieda City, Ekimae, 1-7-21, taiko Bldg. 1F
Tel.: 054-6469494
Business hours: 17:00~24:00
Closed on Sundays and every second Monday

Agricultural products: Biwa/Loquat

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The Loquat season has reached us in Shizuoka Prefecture at last!
Called “Biwa” in Japanese, it is considered as a fairly expensive delicacy as the beginning. Fruit sold at stores are carefully chosen. The bigger, the better it seems.
The most noted growers are located in Okitsu where 20 of them have formed the Okitsu Biwa Association. They particularly sweet and juicy.

Whenever I can, I pick the small ones you can find almost everywhere and either make sorbet of “biwa shu” (preserved in Shochu and sugar).

Today’s “bento”/boxed lunch

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On Mondays, as I’m too busy to come back home for lunch, my better (worse?) half usually prepares a boxed lunch, or “bento”, in various guises.

This time, it was all very Japanese:
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As for staples, she made “shirogoma to tobiko tsuke shyouga nigiri” (balls of rice steamed with fresh ginger topeed with white seame seeds and flying fish roe), “tamafoyaki” (Japanese omelette) and pickled fresh ginger roots.

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As for garnish, she fried asparaguses inside bacon to go with French pickles, fresh mini tomatoes, golden kiwi fruit, lettuce and processed cheese.

All this with avegetable juice pack.
Cannot complain, can I?

Marine products: the bright side and the dark side

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The bright side:
“Taka Ashi Gani” (“Tall Leg Crab”), the largest crab in the world found in Suruga Bay, notably off the northwestern part of Izu peninsula has significantly in numbers in recent years.
Fishermen realized they were catching to many young specimen in the deep sea nets. They decided to preserve the caught crabs and with the help of Heda Marine Association taught local children about the importance to preserve marine resources and replenish existing stocks when they show the crabs to the kids every year before releasing them back to depths of 500 metres about one kilometre off Heda Harbour.

The dark side:
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Poachers have increasingly caught “uni” (sea urchins) and “namko” (Sea slug/beche de mer) and the Japanese had to take drastic measures with boat confiscations, heavy fines (between 100,000 yen and 2,000,000 yen) and even prison sentences.
Sea urchins will find high prices on the Japanese markets while China and Hong Kong have an unquenchable craving for sea slugs.
Both command higher and higher prices, due to the decreasing catches and measures to preserve stocks.
As an indication, illegal poaching cases increased from over 900 in 2002 to more than 1,200 in 2004 and still on the way up!
On the other hand the legal export of sea slugs has increased by 43.5 % from 2004 to 2005 to reach 7,900,000,000 yen in sales of which China’s share amounts to 520,000,000 yen, an increase of 60% in one single year.
The total illegal catch was 32 tonnes last year in Hokkaido.

Shizuoka Oden 1: Ogawa

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Yes, Shizuoka Prefecture and especially Shizuoka City are famous for their “oden” thanks to an abundant supply of fish and recent reports by NHK, TBS, Fuji TV and TV Tokyo!
There are probably over 300 registered shops/restaurants selling oden in Shizuoka City alone.
I will try and introduce the notable ones as I hop around.
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I visited Ogawa in Baban-cho, near Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City yesterday, May 20th, with my better (worse?) half. We chose the wrong moment of lunch time as we had to queue for a good 20 minutes. Therefore if you want to sample that particular shop’s wares, I would suggest you to come on a week day sometime between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.
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Shizuoka Oden are characterized by their dark strong tsuyu/soup. Ogawa’s is just a little lighte than the average. Like in other similar local establishments, the oden there are on the soft side as they are cooked for a long time.
I would recommend Ogawa to both Japanese and foreigners as the taste is just strong enough for all and very reasonably priced (80 yen a stick).

Ogawa
420-0867 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Baban-cho, 36 (along Sengen Shrine Street)
Tel.: 054-2522548
Fax: 054-2522549
Orders possible by fax and mail
Opening hours: 10:00~18:00
Closed on Wednesdays

Hana No Mai Brewery

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On May 14th, I finally managed to find the time to go to Hamamatsu and visit the largest Brewery in the Prefecture, namely Hana No Mai Brewery located in Miyakuchi, formerly part of Hamakita City, now merged into the new cosmopolitan City of Hamamatsu.
To reach the place you have to board the train to Komatsu on the Entetsu private railway line just outside Entetsu Department Store and then take a taxi or walk for a good hour like I did.
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The brewery seems small at first glance., but the facade is cleverly designed to hide the vast complex behind. Mr. Kazuhito Tsuchida, the young (48) Toji/Master Brewer was expecting me and I must say that for the whole time I spent in his company, I felt extremely welcome. Mr. Tsuchida was born but followed his father to Hamamatsu when he was still at Primary School. We almost spent the same time in Shizuoka Prefecture, and although he does visit his homeplace from time to time, I felt he was truly a man of Shizuoka. Actually, the only thing not from our Prefecture in the whole Brewery is the cedar ball “imported” from Gifu Prefecture!
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Hana No Mai was founded in 1864 and was called Inasa Brewery until December 1949.
The Sales Department is under the responsibility of the last generation of owners’ son, Kazuo Takada. Mr. Tsuchida, who became the resident Toji at the age of 32 is now in charge of the whole brewing, while the brewing of sake is being delegated in great part to Mr. Jun Aoki (32).
This is a Large brewery by Shizuoka standards as it numbers 65 employees with 10, including 2 ladies!, in charge of the brewing solely. Employees are of all ages, a sure sign of an assured future.
All ingredients used for the brewing of sake and distilling of shochu and liqueurs are from the Prefecture:
Rice strains are Shizuoka Yamada Nishiki, Homare Fuji, Shizuoka Goyakumangoku and Shizuoka Natsushizuka.
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Mr. Tsuchida develops his own HD-1 NEW 5 and K901 (Shizuoka) yeasts.
Alcohol is also made in our Prefecture.
Hana No Mai has been brewing premium sake only since 1995.
Thay have the license to distill kome/rice shochu of extravagant quality as well as umeshu from junmai sake.
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Hana No Mai Brewery is not only very open about their business but also generous in allowing everyone to take water from their well!
Mr. Tsuchida then took me to an extensive tour of the facilities where I could see the modern equipment inside buildings completely renovated and computerized,
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including hangars for the rice,
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enormous vats for all the sake where sake was brewing,
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the room where rice was fermenting (see above picture), the bottling system for a new product,
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all under the benevolent protection of a small shinto altar
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It was a long tour indeed, and all the time it was made all the more pleasurable by a truly enthusiastic master Brewer who made a point to present me with plenty of o-miyage/souvenirs to take home.

Hana No Mai Brewery presently exports to the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong.

Another piece of good news, for collectors, as Hana No Mai Brewery brews more than 200 private brands for local businesses!
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Last, but not least, two sake brewed by Hana No Mai will feature in an international virtual tasting in New York, Tokyo and Shizuoka whose results will be silmutaneously published on the 21st of May by Melinda, Etsuko, Valerie, Timothy, Hiroko & Eric and your servant!

Hana No Mai Brewery
434-0004 Hamamatsu City, Miyakuchi, 632
Tel.: 053-5822121
Hamamatsu City JR Station, Costa East Aisle
Te.: 053-5474855
420-0923 Shizuoka City, Kawai, 100-7
Te.: 054-2657210
140-0011 Tokyo, Shinagawa Ku, Todai, 6-4-3, Estomer Todai, 502
Tel.: 03-37657391
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