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Hikimi Wasabi

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HIKIMI WASABI

Rare Hikimi wasabi,
growing in harsh clear waters

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“Shizuoka in the east, and Hikimi in the west” were the two famous wasabi areas, but Hikimi wasabi is now “rare”

The Takatsu River, running through the western part of Shimane Prefecture, is a prominent clear stream, selected as having the best water quality in Japan. One of its tributaries is the Hikimi River, known for its varied geographical formations and clear water. Beautiful wasabi fields covered in green leaves can be found upstream at the source of the river, 500 meters above sea level.

Hikimi wasabi used to be so famous that it was said of wasabi that there was “Shizuoka in the east and Hikimi in the west”. However, due to repeated flooding, and the aging of producers, shipments have dropped sharply. In recent years, it has come to be known as “rare wasabi”.

Worried about the current situation, the local producers started Aoiya, a wasabi producers’ group which attempts to expand Hikimi wasabi production.

“Hikimi’s natural environment is harsh, for both the wasabi and its producers. Yet that very harshness makes for sweet, viscous wasabi,” says the manager, Tatsuo Ando. He moved to the countryside from Kyoto seven years ago, and is the man for the job of reviving Hikimi wasabi.

The wasabi cultivated in a harsh natural environment may look unattractive, but it has a delicious spicy, sweet flavor.

Climbing a steep slope, and heading down to the fresh wasabi fields, Captain Uchiyama asks, “Is this wasabi different from the type that grows in Shizuoka?”

“Shizuoka wasabi grows in tatami-ishi style wasabi fields, artificial constructions made by layering stones. Hikimi wasabi grows in mountain stream type fields, with stones layered on a steep slope. This is the traditional way of cultivation, and it is more natural. The cultivation period is longer than that of other regions, as over two meters of snow falls on the area in winter. It is harvested after about two years. That is why Hikimi wasabi appears unattractive. However, it is also what gives it flavor and sweetness,” says Mr Ando.

In addition to producing flower and leaf wasabi, the production group Aoiya works tirelessly on other products, including packs of wasabi paste with yam added, which are vacuum sealed and frozen.

Even in summer, it is cool and pleasant in the broadleaf forest around the clear water Hikimi wasabi fields. However, the scars of last year’s flood still remain. Behind the superb wasabi are the efforts of the producers who work diligently and in harmony with nature.

{ Access }

  • ●Access to Aoiya: Approximately 42 minutes by car from Iwami Yokota Station, JR San’in Line

  • ●I 262 Shiso, Hikimi-cho, Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture

  • [ more information ] Wasabi - Connect Shimane <<View the site>>

San’in Good Thing Diary

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HIKIMI WASABI