Tag Archives: Gardening

Organic Gardening in Shizuoka City 1

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The first plot as it has been for the last 15?20? years!

September 22nd 2013

I have just started helping a friend of mine, Asami Itoh/伊東麻美さん, the youngish (gentlemen, she is still eligible!) president and owner of Marufuku Tea Factory and CHA-O Tea Processing Company, with a project up in the mountains in Umegashima, Shizuoka City.
She wants to start the cultivation of organic herbs in particular in view to blend them later with her company’s organic tea for a more extensive market research.
Her father had bought land a long time ago at the altitude of 1.000 meters where he buit a house I have previously described in a recent article about organic Japanese plums.

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It takes a good hour by car to reach the spot at 1,000 meters at the very end of the road where you are greeted by a minuscule Shinto Shrine.

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The sign says “1,000 meters, the highest tea fields in Japan!”

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The red color is arguably the most used color for Shinto Shrines which are found in far more places than Budhist Temples especially in rural Japan!

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This “Torii/鳥居/Bird Gate”, for all its small size is remarkable for the fact that the top beam was made with the bottom part of a tree to show a pointed horn at its tip! Very rare actually! The whole portal was created by with logs sawed by the small log company just a few meters away!

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for the people interested with such facts, the name of the shrine is called “Inari Dai Myoujin/稲荷大明神”!
“Inari” is also the name of a sushi. Can you guess why? “Ina” means “rice” and it was offered inside rice straw balls at such shrines to pray for bountiful crops whose shape has been copied to make inari sushi!

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This very spot is heavens for photography buffs!

SN3O4806take a zoom with you to catch to the different grey hues of the mountain reminding you of a Chinese ink painting!

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From there it is precipitous walk down a narrow mountain lane or along a rail if you want to carry down/up heavy baggage. The city has finally decided to build a winding road down to Itoh’s house and a couple a farms on higher ground. The problem is that during the works which mike take as long as 3 years we will have to come down another more circuitous route….

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The house!
A lot inquiries for rent regularly reach Asami who is certainly not interested.
There is still a lot of work and cleaning inside although the toilets, bathroom and kitchen are working. Next year will see a lot of trash being taking away. Very hard work in prospect!

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The “field” in front of the house.
This is work for next year as we concentrate on the plot just in front of the house for the moment.
The field actually comprises all the organic Japanese plum trees we harvest very year to make umeshu, umeboshi and other preserves.
The field is full of fern these days, but these can be harvested in late spring as “warabi/蕨市/bracken, brake or common bracken, also known as “eagle fern”, a very popular mountain vegetables in Japan.
Asami already has to contend with wild monkeys, boars, deer, civets and even bears, but she discovered that people came regularly every year to steal those warabi. Picking some for your consumption is not much of a problem and she would welcome such unauthorized visitors, but the “thieves” go away with full crops! Don’t be surprised if some local supermarkets cannot tell you the origin of their warabi!
Talking of the animals (including humans?) we will have to erect light net fences during the winter to protect the japanese plum trees we will also have to prune (no pun intended!). We are also thinking of othe mountain vegetables crops for that field, too, but we will have to provide it some extra soil first!

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But first we have to deal with that 8 m2 plot (maybe small but perfect for research and trials) left unattended for the last 20 years.
At least the whole property has seen any agrichemicals or pesticides for the same period of time!

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I had to use the available traditional tools to dig up the deep-rooted grass and weeds.
We will come with more modern utensils in 2 weeks time!

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The temperature is still around 30 degrees even now and I can tell you this slow sweaty hard work! The soil being very dry does not make the digging up any easier!

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During that time Asami was ridding the field barbecue from weeds, ants and what else, not to mention all the bricks inside and and outside had to be taken out for better access and cleaning. I hard a time convincing her not to break the whole contraption!

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It was certainly worth it!

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Done at last!
Asami plans to grow mint, thyme, lemon balm, lemon grass and basil among other herbs but this will have to wait until early spring.
First I will have to sift the stones out of the soil in two weeks’ time (we plan to visit the place every two weeks at the beginning, which is sufficient providing that the fields are protected with netting).
Next in 4 weeks time I will mix in organic red soil, organic lime, organic fertilizer and oragnic vegtable/herb soil, cover the whole with a tarp and leave it ferment for the whole winter!

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It is already starting to look better!
See you again there in two weeks time!
We hope to bring along a friend or two next time to help with the work and to share a couple beers (Asami does not drink and she doesn’t mind driving us around!)!

Marufuku Tea Factory (Director, Ms. Asami Itoh)
420-0006 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu, Cho, 25
Tel.: 054-271-2011
Fax: 054-271-2010
Mobile: 090-3250-4188

CHA-O (Director, Ms. Asami Itoh)
420-0006 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 94
Tel: 054-253-8421
Fax: 054-253-8413
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Itoh Organic Project
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Umegashina, Higashi Mine (Do not send letters yet as there is no post box!)

RECOMMENDED LINKS FOR ROOF GARDENING

Containerized: My Garden Blog
Gardens by Mike Palmer (Dorchester, England)
Best New York Gardening Blogs
Battery Rooftop Garden Blog (UK)
Green Roof Growers (Chicago)
Mitsukoshi Roof Top Garden – Ginza by Tokyobling’s Blog
NYCFARMER’S BLOG
The Tattooed Gardener
Town and Country Gardening
My Botanical Garden by Tamara
My Food and Flowers
Vienna Roof Garden
Leaf and Twig
Ekostories by Jack Yuen
My Food And Flowers
The Japans
Photography Art Plus
LOSTINTHOT
Spy Garden

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

Shop with Intent by Debbie
BULA KANA in Fiji
Kraemer’s Culinary blog by Frank Kraemer in New York,Tokyo Food File by Robbie Swinnerton, Green Tea Club by Satoshi Nihonyanagi in Shizuoka!, Mind Some by Tina in Taiwan, Le Manger by Camille Oger (French), The Indian Tourist, Masala Herb by Helene Dsouza in Goa, India, Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London, Pierre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento, Hapabento, Kitchen Cow, Lunch In A Box, Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Ohayo Bento,

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: Another Pint, Please!, Beering In Good Mind: All about Craft Beer in Kansai by Nevitt Reagan!
-Whisky: Nonjatta: All about whisky in Japan by Stefan Van Eycken
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Non gastronomy must-see sites by Shizuoka Residents

HIGHOCTANE/HAIOKU by Nick Itoh in Shizuoka City

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A Japanese Gardener’s Winter Preparations

Looking at my dear neighbor, Mr. Yoshizo Sugiyama’s garden this morning I realized that winter was about to fall on us in spite of the prevailing mild weather.
The telltale signs were the fruit and vegetables hung out to dry as the climate will turn very dry and cold enough for such a process.

I know he has a few persimmon/kaki/柿 trees in another plot he’s lent for some time.
Dried persimmons are a typical Japanese delicacy, and they certainly don’t come cheap on the market. It is definitely worth drying them yourself!
The persmmons are first peeled, then a twine is passed through them under their sepals before they are hung to dry.
The fruit will reduce to less than half their size and will be delicious with all their concentrated sugar!

The daikon of the same garden were being for takuan/沢庵 or Japanese pickled daikon!

In spite of their crazy shapes, these dailon will make excellent pickles.
They were first thoroughly washed before being hung.
Beside them you can also freshly hung persimmons and more that are almost completely matured into dry fruit.

The picture shows you how easy to hang the daikon.
Their heavy leaves are used as a counterweight with the result there is not need to secure them with twine.
After the daikon have dried to almost half their size they will be pickled for the whole winter!
The same picture shows you again the persimmons!

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

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi

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)

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi

Polyculture: Shigehiko Suzuki at Shige-Chan Garden

Shigehiko Suzuki/鈴木重彦 goes by the nickname “Shige-Chan”, which is also the name of his agricultural enterprise. Actually people have called him simply Shige-chan, a mark of respect from his peers in the local world of agriculture.

As usual On Wednesdays, my good friend Natsuko Koyanagi was on hand to help!

Shige-chan is a polyvalent farmer.
He grows a lot of cress/cresson, a vegetable which has become increasingly popular. He grows it on no less than 220 tsubo/~700 square meters! The above culture is done on “Buckets”.

He also grows “Fruitical” tomatoes on 600 more tsubo~2,000 square meters.
All agricultural land is rented!

Although he says that the tomatoes are not up to par in summer, they certainly look beautiful!

The best season is in February but they need great care all year round.
Shige-Chan’s hooby is arm wrestling, so I’m sure he has the stamina!
Would you believe he has only one gentle old lady to help him do all the picking?

Tomatoes are not attached to poles but kept standing by ropes attached to the “ceiling” of the greenhouses!

It was very hot that day (26 degrees on September 22nd!) and it was even hotter inside!

The gourds seemed to have a good time though!
Shige-chan uses as little pesticides as possiblle and works with his own brand of fertilizers.

And walking between each greenhouse contributed to a lot of lost sweat if not weight!

His other hobby is pisciculture!

This cress is cultivated in “hedge-style”
A central-heating system keeps the temperature above 8~10 degrees in winter while a ventilator systems keep the cress cool in summer.
Incidentally cress must be allowed to flower!

These tomatoes were seeded 6 weeks ago.

But his very first culture has always been roses for the last 22 years after he finished high school!
Quite a lot of them on 80 tsubos/~260 square meters!

An interesting variety, although

Shige-chan specialises in mini-roses of his own brand.

All roses ae grown in the “arch method” for even culture and straight stems.

Tomatoes ready to be delivered.
Shige-Chan spends every morning of the year (with the sole exception on New Year) from 06:00 t0 11:00 sorting, packaging and sending his tomatoes and cress all over Shizuoka Prefecture and as far as Tokyo!

Tough guy!

Shige-Chan Garden (Mr. Shigehiko Suzuki)
421-2118 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Uchimaki, 1720
Tel.: 090-2773-5182
Fax: 054-207-7268
HOMEPAGE (Japanese
BLOG (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)

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi

Gardening After Retirement: Yoshizou Sugiyama (1)

I have been observing my neighbour for quite some time, always exchanging daily greetings and a chat now and then for the last 17 years. It seems that all the time I had entertained the wrong impressions about his life past and present although the gentleman had alway been extremely civil with me.

I thought it was about time to have a “real” chat with him. After all, the gentleman had woken me up a few times in the past as early as 6:30 a.m. to offer me some products of his garden, especially red shizo/perilla leaves I’m so fond of!


Spinach

Mr. Yoshizou Sugiyama/杉山芳造 (70) retired at the early age of 53 after scouring the whole of Japan working for Sumitomo Life Insurance. He certainly could afford to retire as he bought land for his new house near my abode.


Just a very few of mr. Sugiyama’s bonsai!

Being born in a local farming family and having an older brother growing rice and tea (he still occasionally gives him a hand), it was only natural that he expanded on his bonsai hobby he had pursued for the last 45 years.


Sato imo/Taro

He first borrowed land from a neighbour to indulge into his gardening hobby as his collection of bonsai did not leave hime any place.
A few ago he finally managed to buy some land next to his home from the local rice grower who had decided to change his field into a much-needed car-park.


Eggplants

The land area is 60 tsubo/~200 square metres. Not much by Western standards, but quite a bit for the Japanese, especially in towns.


Green shiso, leeks, brocoli and more bonsai!

He justly pointed out that real gardening is vastly different from a verandah hobby. He has to use pesticides, although sparingly as he tries to fend off pests with very thin mesh nets.


Fine mesh netting

As for fertilizers, which are unavoidale, he works with a mixture of artificial fertilizer and home-made compost.


The pest trap!

He has also devised his own brand of trap for night pests!


Taiwan tororo

He grows all kinds of vegetables all year round and according to season.
Presently he is tackling Brocoli, Satoimo/Taro, Eggplants, Ha Negi/Leeks, Daikon, Cabbage, Ha Shoga/Stick Ginger, Spinach, Green and Red Shiso/Perilla and a strange kind of Yama Imo/Yam called Taiwan Tororo.


Mukago

He even grows “Mukago”, the fruit of the Yamaimo/Yam!
These do ot come cheap in markets. You can eat them raw, fried, or boiled.

Otherwise you will see him busy at impossibly early hours tending Tomatoes, String beans, Green peas, Lettuce, and what else!

The gentleman has actually proved, in his own poker faced humour, a great source of information that I will have impart into coming articles.

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)

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi