Organic Tea: Honyama Tea by Bunji Itoh at Marufuku Tea Co. Ltd.
Mr. Bunji Itoh/伊藤文治 in his fields in Hirano/平野, Shizuoka City
“Organic Tea will become a new norm within the next 10 years.”
Organic tea is still rare in Shizuoka Prefecture which produces no less than 45% of the total tea crop in Japan.
The Prefecture counts many famous brands, one of which is Honyama/本山 grown along the Abe/安部 and Warashina/藁科 Rivers across Shizuoka city up to the Japan Southern Alps.
Entrance sign in front of Bunji Itoh’s registered organic tea fields in Hirano
Bunji Itoh is the 3rd generation of a tea growing family and the 2nd generation at their company, Marufuku Tea Co. Ltd./丸福製茶株式会社.
10 years ago he pioneered organic tea in one of his tea fields in Hirano, up the Abe River near Utougi/有東木, the birthplace of wasabi.
Last year the Shizuoka Prefecture decided to promote its tea in Europe and Bunji Itoh was awarded an Official Organic Tea Recognition Licence in Germany for two kinds of organic tea!
So the other saw a real expedition of ours ride all the way to his fields located at almost 1,000 meters height!
The members of our expedition were (on the picture not featuring me):
Aya Itoh/伊藤彩, his younger daughter, Asami Itoh/伊藤麻実 his older daughter who, besides helping her father, runs her own business at Saiko Chyaen/彩香茶園, Mr. Bunji Itoh/伊藤文治 himself, Mr. Chaminda Jayawardana, a Sri Lankan Tea Merchant and Grower at Lumbini Tea Factory (PVT) Ltd. who had come at the International Tea Event held in Granship, Shizuoka City and who had been invited to join us all by my friend Nahoko Imai/今井奈保子, owner of Teebom Co..
Interestingly enough, except for Mr. Itoh, everyone was fluent in English!
It was actually a great drive along the Abe River and along the wasabi fields!
You quickly understood that the culture was organic as the lane sanking between the tea trees was covered with very healthy moss!
Mr. Itoh grows two kinds of organic tea, Yabukita/やぶきた which is cultivated from grafts and Zairai/在来種 which is grown form the seeds.
The whole area covers 60 ha at high altitude at foot of the Japan Southern Alps.
Stupendous vista from the same fields.
These are not clouds but mist, a major reason for the quality of the tea.
Flowers could be seen (they are of the same family as the camelias) blossoming from the base of the trees.
Chaminda remarked that they would never let them grow back in Sri Lanka where leaves are basically picked all year round, whereas here in Shizuoka they are picked only four times a year.
The area is replete with streams and falls providing clear and pure water not only to keep the fields wet but also to keep the insects away (the trees are watered three times a week to make all insects drop to the ground where they will become organic fertilizer!).
As for fertilizer, Mr. Itoh utilizes only organic matter, mainly composed of grass mowed on abandoned golf courses and let to ferment for three years before being spread between the trees.
There are plenty of damage on the leaves proving that the culture is organic!
The above picture shows downy mildew/炭素病.
For a closer view.
All these problems have to be taken care of in a natural manner.
No wonder a lot of farmers opt for the easy way.
But although Mr. Itoh grows other tea with a minimum of pesticides and artificial fertilizer, he believes he is on the right path with organic tea!
On our way back to Marufuku Tea Co. Ltd. in Wakamatu/若松 in Shizuoka City (see above sign),
we spent a long time observing the manufacture of tea,
and sampling it.
But as I need another visit to properly report on the manufacture it will have to wait until the next article!
Marufuku Seishya Co. Ltd. (Mr. Bunji Itoh)
Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 25
The Tea Museum: O Cha No Sato in Shimada City!
Shizuoka Prefecture produces between 45 and 55% of all green tea in Japan depending on the year and official surveys. Moreover, 70% of all tea made in this island finds it way every year at auctions and sales held within the confines of this central Prefecture.
The Tea Museum in Kanaya, Shimada City, would be a sufficient reason to visit this relatively unknown tourist destination, but you could also include it in a grander tour as it stands near Shin Kanaya Station where you could board one of three daily Steam Locomotive trains running up to Senzu Hot Spring resorts along the Oi River and unending tea fields. Another option would be to walk along the Old Tokaido Paved Road through mountain and forest, or along the main road circling its way up over beautiful vistas of the Oi River and its surrounding landscapes.
Tea leaves Exhibit
Serving and drinking a cup of tea is an exchange of hospitality. It is evident that tea is in fact one of the very foundations of Japanese culture.
At The Tea Museum you can learn by experiencing its history and culture hands-on
Tea leaves Exhibit
Tea has its origin in the mountain ranges of Asia. Its culture was developed in China and Japan, and later all over the World. People and environment each play a part in the way tea is enjoyed with amazing variations.
Here in Japan drinking tea takes root very deeply.
However because tea is such a part of our everyday lives we perhaps have come to value it less.
The Tea Museum, therefore, invites everyone to reconsider the original meaning of tea through many exhibits of tea life in the World.
Huxinting/湖心亭 Tea Room in Shanghai
First, as you enter the small lobby leading to the exhibition rooms, you will be offered a cup of tea from Kanaya and invited to check the ninety varieties of tea from thirty countries displayed inside glass drawers you may open to feel and smell their contents!
Then, as you follow the visit route, you will discover the highly sophisticated ambiance of Chinese Imperial Era inside the reproduction of the famous Huxinting/湖心亭 Tea Room in Shanghai, the simplicity of a typical Tibetan house in Nepal, the great setting from a Turkish Restaurant in Ankara, or the quaint atmosphere of a traditional British household!
Samovar and tea utensils from Russia
Other exhibits include a replica of one of the oldest tea trees in the World, from Yuna, China, a scaled down landscape of tea fields, farms and growers in Japan, and the History of Tea in Japan.
Grinding your own matcha!
Check this site for more information!
Real tea lovers will also be able to sample and grind their own matcha tea in situ!
Tea House Garden
Now, the main attraction is the Japanese Tea House/Ocha no Sato-お茶の里!
The tea house, tea rooms and extensive garden are reconstructions of original architectural works of Kobori Enshu-小堀遠州 (1579~1647), a renown magistrate and tea master from the early Edo Era.
The east garden of the Sento Palace in Kyoto, the residence of Emperor Gomizunao-o after he abdicated the throne in 1629, has been recreated there.
The Japanese garden is open to visitors free of charge.
Before entering the tea house, walk along the Yatsuhashi-八橋 (eight-wooden plank bridge), enter the house through Kouhoukyo－向峯居, the arbor of the official residence for the Chief Administrative Judge of Fushimi, and visit Taiunkaku-対雲閣, tea room from the Iwashimizu-hachimangu Temple and Rinsuitei-臨水亭, tea room of the official residence of the Chief Administrative Judge of Fushimi.
Tea History in Japan
Before leaving the Tea Museum pay a visit to the small but very interesting library if you can read Japanese, the Yume Ichiba Shop to purchase local products and souvenirs or Restaurant Moegi for a well-earned refreshment!
Train: 5 minutes by bus or taxi from Kanaya Station on the JR Tokaido Line.
Car: 10 minutes by car from Sagara/Makinohara I.C. on Tomei Expressway
Or 15 minutes from Ojiro I.C. Bypass
Museum visitor’s regular exhibition fee: 600 yen per adult. Cheaper for students, groups and disabled people.
Service hours: 9:00 a.m.~5:00 p.m.
Museum and Teahouse visitor fee: 1,00 yen per adult. Cheaper for students, groups and disabled people.
Service hours: 9:30 a.m.~4:00 p.m.
The teahouse only admission is 500 yen per person (no discount)
Address: The Tea Musuem/Ocanosato, 3053-2, Kanaya, Shimada Shi, Shizuoka Ken, 428-0022 Japan
Closed every Tuesday (the following day when Tuesday is a National Holiday), December 29th~January 3rd.
Parking: free of charge for 9 large buses and 90 cars.