Why Japanese Wasabi Farms Are So Hot Right Now

Tokyo draws you in with its electric glow and modernism. Kyoto transports you to back in time to an era of Samurai warriors and Geisha. And Sapporo invites you to find your zen amidst the pristine snow-capped mountains.

What are we trying to say here? Quite simply, Japan is freaking amazing! Its got it all: nature, culture, food, and some of the wackiest (read: robot show) activities to partake in.

The aforementioned cities are part of what makes Japan such a unique place to visit. But right now, it’s all about the Wasabi farms. You know that deliciously spicy, root vegetable that you top your sushi with? Turns out travelers and locals alike are flocking to Japan to get a taste of it.

Japanese Agriculture

Rice growing in a field. Photo by Ryo Yoshitake on Unsplash.

Before visiting a Wasabi farm, understanding Japan’s agricultural situation is important.

According to Wikipedia “The Japanese agricultural sector accounts for about 1.4% of the total country’s GDP.[149] Only 12% of Japan’s land is suitable for cultivation.[150][151] Due to this lack of arable land, a system of terraces is used to farm in small areas.[152] This results in one of the world’s highest levels of crop yields per unit area, with an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 50% on fewer than 56,000 square kilometres (14,000,000 acres) cultivated.”

Resources are precious in Japan. Luckily, the government favors small-scale farming and production, and much of the land is heavily protected.

Urban farming has also become very popular and accounts for almost 1/3 of all agricultural output. Pasona02, a hydroponic farm in the basement of an commercial building in Tokyo,  is a prime example.

Despite all of this, Japan’s agricultural state is in a dire situation. Aging farmers are having a hard time finding successors and the TPP deal has added an extra level of anxiety to the situation with new seed laws, which would force farmers to rely more heavily on corporations. Japanese citizens also spend more on food per capita income than most other countries. To top it all off, farmers are still feeling the effects of 2015 Tsunami and Fukushima No. 1 meltdown.

Striking A Balance- Wasabi Farms

Wasabi relish on a plate. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Wasabi is deemed by many, one of the hardest plants to grow. Much of the wasabi you get in restaurants are made from other types of horseradish and only about 5% of the real stuff makes it into the commercial space. The plant is not easy to grow, but is highly lucrative to harvest. If exposed to too much humidity, the plant will die. And the soil and nutrients have to be just right, too! Production costs are often high for this reason and many farmers who try and grow wasabi in other parts of the world, have a difficult time.

Fortunately for Japan, wasabi is a native plant.

Where To Wasabi

Cherry Blossoms in Japan. Photo by Rula Sibai on Unsplash.

On the outskirts of Matsumoto lies Diao Wasabi Farm. The plant is plentiful here and easy to sustain. Water from the Japanese Alps flows down into a system of streams that feed the plants. Wasabi can only grow in the purest water source and as you can imagine, the water from the Alps is a flipping pure source!

Ok, so now that we’ve talked enough about where the little green guys come from, let’s get to the yummy part. At Diao you can taste wasabi ice cream, soba noodles, chocolate, and more. You can also take a cooking class and learn how to impress your friends with your wasabi skills.

The farm, which was established in the Taishō era, provides a tranquil setting for visitors to stroll through. You may even recognize Daio’s beautiful streams and watermills from Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams.”

A lesser known place to “get your wasabi on” is in the Izu Peninsula. Along the Kawazu river, wasabi grows plentiful and accounts for nearly a quarter of all production in the nation. Many smaller run farms can be found in the Izu Peninsula. Not only will you enjoy the fragrant aroma of wasabi hanging in the air – a great way to clear the nasal passage- you’ll be blown away by the waterfalls in the area. Kawazu has seven waterfalls! The Joren and Narandu waterfalls being the main attractors.

Fun Wasabi Facts

Fresh wasabi root. Photo by Luke Lawreszuk / Sprayedout.com.

  1. Did you know that wasabi has many health benefits? It helps combat bacterial infections and even reduces the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
  2. Wasabi is a member of the cabbage family.

Ready to go to Japan and eat some wasabi? Get started with Green Suitcase Travel.

 

Misty is the owner and founder of Green Suitcase Travel. She is a consultant, travel writer, and all around travel maven. When she is not traversing the world, spreading the news about sustainable travel, she is in Tucson, Arizona enjoying the desert.