In the middle of Nagano Prefecture, near Matsumoto and its famous castle, there exists a dream come true for wasabi lovers. The Daio Wasabi Farm is set in a broad valley among the high Japanese Alps, and is the perfect combination of scenery and flavor. To get there, you rent a bike at Hotaka station, and ride a couple of kilometers through rice paddies and corn fields.
We started our visit at the restaurant, with a very wasabi lunch. My meal consisted of wasabi juice and a wasabi croquette, and both were excellent. The green monstrosity you see above was a wasabi beer ordered by Ryan. While this may not catch on for St. Patrick's Day back Stateside, it was actually far more delicious than you might expect. The wasabi flavor was very subtle, but was certainly present. The beer was in fact just a bit spicy, and went down perfectly with a side of wasabi peas.
The farm itself is quite a sight to see. Wasabi must be grown in a rocky stream bed of fresh, flowing water. The plants are also temperature sensitive, hence the black shade coverings.
We got to dip our feet in the water, and I took the opportunity to get a shot under the canopy. The water was chill, and very refreshing. However, I can't imagine what will grow downstream of anywhere my feet have been.
Once you are done exploring the paths among and above the spicy little roots, well there is only one thing left to do...
... and that is to have some Wasabi ice cream!
This was actually my second trip to the farm, but I had just as much fun as the first time. It really is a little seen gem of Japan, though I can understand why. Nagano Prefecture is a bit off the Tokyo to Kyoto to maybe Nara or Hiroshima tourist path. Getting to the farm from anywhere that isn't Matsumoto or Nagano City will take a few hours, and would anybody on a ten day trip really want to devote a whole day to wasabi? That said, for anybody who has the time or is in the area, it's a uniquely Japanese experience that doesn't involve a shrine, temple, or skyscraper.