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Eat and rest well in the Aichi Highlands – 愛知高原でよく食べて，よく休んで
After a detox holiday in the countryside here, Aichikogen-Okumikawa, you’ll return feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Must-eats in Aichikogen-Okumikawa – あいち高原/奥三河で見逃せない食
Symbolic rice and miso come together as one in gohei-mochi; remember to try the region’s signature ayu fish too.
In Japanese cuisine, rice is more than a meal staple. Cultivated in Japan for 2,000 years, the grain also has much financial, historical and cultural significance. In the past, rice was used as a currency (or as tax money for farmers). Today, Japan’s most important crop isn’t only eaten during meals; it is used in a myriad products, from sakes to vinegars.
It’s no wonder that there’s the Otaue Matsuri or “rice field planting festival”. Celebrated in spring to mark the start of a new year, this sees the Japanese praying for a successful harvest. In some versions of the festival, seeds are planted in fields while in others, the planting process is acted out. Then, when autumn arrives, harvest festivals are held to give thanks, too.
Japanese rice, a short translucent grain that turns sticky when cooked, is grown in the country’s valleys, terraces and fields, with terraced rice plantations being one of the rarer sights. The Yotsuya Senmaida fields in Aichi Prefecture is famous for having more than 1,000 “steps” and produces the grains for some of the region’s signature rice cakes or gohei-mochi.
If you do visit Aichikogen-Okumikawa, have this as your main meal or as a snack. Resembling a big lollipop, this rice cake is grilled on a skewer and glazed with sesame or miso paste, or even topped with crushed walnuts. One of the traditional shops serving this is Matsuya, which has been around since 1935 and sells
grilled ayu fish skewers
grilled ayu fish skewers
300 gohei-mochi every day on weekends. Owner Yachie Maruyama pounds the rice by hand, uses a secret recipe for her miso paste and grills the cakes over a charcoal fire.
Miso paste is another example of a Japanese diet staple. Once reserved for nobles and monks, miso, which has health benefits like preventing gastric disorders and lowering blood pressure, is made from fermented soybeans. It is now most commonly used in soups that are best paired with steaming hot Japanese rice for a simple yet comforting meal, or on gohei-mochi as a sweet, robust seasoning.
Besides miso-paste gohei-mochi, Aichikogen-Okumikawa is known for the freshwater ayu fish, which can be eaten at restaurants like Chiyohimeso. A skewer is pierced into the fish mouth and through its body before it is cooked over charcoal. Although ayu fish can be stewed in soya sauce and sugar, the locals like it best grilled in its own deliciously briny oils. We can’t agree more. –>
Meet the Game Changers ゲームチェンジャーに会う
Atsushi Umemura, Miyazakien 宮ザキ園 梅村篤志
This dapper 39-year-old looks nothing like a traditional tea farmer. Not surprising since Umemura, the sixth-generation owner of the Miyazakien tea house that has been around since 1820, wants to modernise the art of tea drinking .
How different is Miyazakien from other tea businesses in Japan? 宮ザキ園は日本国内の他の茶園とどのように違うのか。
We are unusual in how we see through the entire process, from processing the tea to selling the leaves wholesale and even serving tea on our premises. In 2006, we also became the first organic tea farm in Aichi Prefecture.
How do you attract new customers? どのように新しい顧客を開拓されていますか？
As a wholesaler, we usually supply our products to businesses elsewhere but I want people to come visit us directly instead. So, on the second level of our teahouse, we conduct experiential workshops like flower arrangement lessons.
How else are you modernising your tea business? その他に変えてきた点は？
As a wholesaler, we can’t really change the style of our tea products too much. So, we try and serve tea in different new ways. For example, we sell houjicha flavoured shaved ice. This attracts long queues of customers, and we can sell about 100 bowls in a day. But with the shaved ice, we serve tea too, so customers can taste it and be encouraged to purchase our tea leaves. We also experiment with different ways of drinking tea: serving green tea in teacups with ice chips or in a wine decanter-inspired bottle and in wine glasses.
The “Okazaki Kakigori Kaido” is an event that some restaurant in Okazaki city participate. This year we are planning to roll out full-scale deployment from 2019 with the position as pre event. Miyazakien has brought out shaved ice of Matcha – Japanese green tea matcha, Hojicha – roasted Japanese green tea and Wakocha – Japanese black tea taste on the shaved ice . These tea is organic, cultivated in our organic field, and has been processed under control of Miyazakien which has over 100 years for tea business. Miyazakien got the opportunity to participate in this shaved ice event, remodeling the store, making a place where it was a warehouse until then, to make a shaving ice or an eat-in space where you can eat the delicious shaved ice with nice country side panorama.
Securing of shops, signboard making, delicious water (Kanzui; water of very valuable ultra soft water to be a raw material of the ice), ice manufacturing special ice (An old historic company helps us to make ice taking long-term to chill water and to make ice with high transparency), we got many advices and helps to survive this seasonal event. We got lots of customers day by day even we just open our shop only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in this Summer and Autumn.
The Kakigori kaido event at Miyazakien Hitosaji ends today in 2018 – although the event continues till 31st October officially.
In the Miyazakien, we often offer our Japanese black tea cultivated and manufactured in our garden to our customers. And we also enjoy it with our staff and family. A slightly sweet scent is very nice.
It is only 2 days to finish the year 2017. We have been indebted to everyone for this past year. Thank you once again.
Today is the last event opening in 2017 as Miyazakien. We have been selling our “Wa kocha” the Japanese black tea, “Hojicha” the Japanese roasted green tea, “Sencha” tea at “NEOPASA · Okazaki” (Okazaki Service Area on the new Tomei Expressway).
The location was changed from where we planned. The shop as you see in the photo was in the shop of Okazaki’s local products gathered at. Though the place was suddenly changed, but the shop staffs were so kind to us so our activity was so fulfilling.
Also, we are very glad that there were several customers who visit the store seeing the opening information on the Internet. Thank you so much for all of you always care.
This year, we participated in various events in local Okazaki, as well as temporal shop at department stores in Nagoya and Okazaki, developing sales channels abroad such as Malaysia and the UK, holding experiential events such as “Okazaki Suguremono Taikentai” experiences and full moon tea ceremonies, Organic JAS certification, etc. We would like to thank the people who have made your voice, the people who supported us.
Next year, we will step forward one step further while treating the accumulation so far. There are many issues such as utilization of the full-moon stage in our organic tea garden, expansion of our organic tea cultivation, needs of maintenance of our tea processing machines, enhancement of hospitality of those who came to our store. Also, new initiatives with local people are progressing steadily, We will show you some new products in the new year.
All the staff will continue their devotion and will continue on the road to become new Miyazakien which everyone loves.
Happy new year everyone! from All of the Miyakozakien staff
In Owari Asahi, there are 18 “delicious tea shops” stores which are approved by the Japan Tea Association as of June 2016, it is the number one in Japan. The festival is hosted, planned, and managed by the Owariasahi Tourism Association.
Miyazakien will open the shop in the tea bazaar area. In the bazaar, you can buy domestic and world black tea at the same time, and you can taste most of the tea. Although it is said that the tasting paper cup is sold at the entrance of the venue (three pieces / 10 yen planned), you can have your own cup. Also, there are not only black tea, but also Japanese tea, Chinese tea and sweets and tea goods.