Saturday, April 12, 2014

Japan Golden Week - Tokaido, Shizuoka


In Shizuoka Prefecture,  green tea is becoming one of the colors of spring. Yes, they have such vast green tea fields in Shizuoka that they boast No1 tea production in Japan every year. 

So today, we first went to explore their Green Tea plantation on a hill.

Although the area is not as big as other tea plantation I've visited (Cameron Highlands, Bandung, Hangzhou), but what sets them apart is the quality of their green tea production.

After an hour of photo taking in the tea leaves plantation,  we went next to a Wasabi factory.

Did you know that Wasabi originated from Shizuoka City?
Around 1600, farmers in Utougi District, some 33 km from Shizuoka JR Station along the Abe River, first started experimenting with the culture of that particular plant, which they already knew as a vegetable used for pickling. At the time they were only processing the stems, leaves and flowers.

In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had just moved to Sumpu (presently Shizuoka City), grew extremely fond of the grated root and helped spread its use all over the country. Its present culture has expanded outside Shizuoka prefecture, especially in Nagano, but Shizuoka still produces the best In Utougi and in the Amagi Range in Izu Peninsula.

In this factory, they have a unique room that sprays Wasabi gas, yes we did went inside the room, and it was a memorable experience, all of us are laughing and nauseated by the sharp Wasabi odor.  We all stepped out of the room teary eyed and a runny nose!

I assume this Wasabi Gas chamber is one of the quality test equipment they have, to measure the sharpness of the extracted wasabi plants they harvest and classify it according to grade.  

Next, we went to the adjacent shop which sells different Wasabi base products.  I have bought a couple of boxes of this Wasabi Kitkat.  It tasted like a white chocolate with a hint of Wasabi flavor at the tip of the tongue.  You must try this if you come here!

As we boarded our Wishclub coach, some of the shop keepers went out to give us a bow and a wave! They are such a nice people.  Arigatou gozaimashita !

We had our lunch at Matsuya, for me food here is better than Yoshinoya.
I ate my favorite beef curry:
After lunch, we were brought to the home of Aunt Midori, she is a nice lady who have a vast collection of Kimono robe sets for both Men and Women. The formal Kimono for men are mostly earth toned, and has a simple fabric patterns and design.

But underneath the outer coat, is the elaborate embroidery of this Samurai warrior.
Had mini fashion show outside Aunty Midori's house: 
Boys will be boys, feeling like Shoguns and Samurai : 

Then at late afternoon, we went to Fujieda city, it is the center of Shizuoka Prefecture, Fujieda city has a long and narrow land area running from north to south and is rich in flowers, trees and clean water.

Here, we went to a Japanese Garden to experience the Tea Ceremony inside a Hyogetsu tei (Tea room).

Inside the tea room, 
we were served with a piece of native Mochi sweets and a cup of Gyokuro no Sato.
Asahina district of Fujieda City is one of three places that produce a high quality premium tea called "Gyokuro". You can enjoy the highest quality Gyokuro and finely powdered Matcha green tea with Japanese seasonal sweets in the calm atmosphere of the tearoom "Hyogetsu Tei". The entrance fee of 1000 Yen includes the tea ceremony.

The surrounding scenery makes one will feel the peacefulness of an authentic Zen garden 
In Japanese tradition, architectural spaces designed to be used for tea ceremony (chanoyu) gatherings are known as chashitsu (茶室, literally "tea rooms").  There is a replica of this Chashitsu in this garden as well:
There is a stone water-basin near the tea house, where the guests rinse their hands and mouths before entering the tea room,  
The entrance is through a small square door called nijiriguchi, or "crawling-in entrance," which requires bending low to pass through and symbolically separates the small, simple, quiet inside from the crowded, overwhelming outside world. The nijiriguchi leads directly into the tea room.
Some pathways in the garden have stepping stones, which in this case, there is a rock on top of the stepping stone.  This symbolizes, no entry from this point.


Our last day in Shizuoka, we went to Miho beach - black stones and sands from Lava.
Miho no Matsubara (三保の松原 Miho Pine Grove) is a scenic area on the Miho Peninsula in Shimizu Ward of Shizuoka City, Japan.

There is an old pine tree dating back 650 years called Hagoromo no Matsu and is said to be where the angel wearing a Hagoromo floated down.  The Miho shrine nearby preserves a piece of her plumage.
We were welcomed by group of  local reporters, who interviewed some of our group mates.

The typical question is: "Why did UNESCO turned down the World Heritage Site application of Miho Bay?"

On a clear sky, Mt. Fuji is also visible from Miho bay, but unfortunately that day Fuji-san is hiding behind the clouds.  Other interesting sites around Miho Bay, are these fortune telling papers, that are tied on a string to make your wish / fortune come true. 
Next, we drove to Kawane Spa Onsen,  where we had a relaxing outdoor hot spring bath and afterwards a simple lunch.
The tickets are sold from these machines, admission fee for onsen is 500 yen for adults  :
We had lunch in their restaurant after we bathed:

Kawane Onsen is one of the few hot springs in Japan where you can see a steam locomotive from the bath.  Photo from Kawane Spa website:

Kawane Onsen is located on the shores of the Oigawa River, and close by is the Oigawa Railway, which crosses the river with an active service of steam locomotives that are not commonly seen in modern-day Japan.  Outside the Kawane Onsen are these beautiful folliage rich mountains.

This concluded our Shizuoka agri and cultural immersion trip during the 4th and 5th day of our Japan Golden Week trip.
Let me leave  you with this 3D - pop up arts to give you an idea on what to expect for our  succeeding days trip.

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