Traditional WASABI Cultivation in Shizuoka

Shizuoka Prefecture – Japan's Top Producing Region

Situated at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka is blessed with a mild climate and natural abundance, allowing for year-round production of a great variety of agricultural products, one of which is wasabi.
The wasabi growing region of Shizuoka is the top wasabi producing region in Japan thanks to its ideal growing conditions created from a combination of heavy precipitation and robust soil, features that allow for a year-round abundance of spring water. Moreover, the wasabi cultivated in Shizuoka has exceptionally thick roots, giving it high market value as well as a reputation for being the highest quality wasabi in Japan, a fact that is reflected in its consistent showing at the top spot in nationwide competitive exhibitions each year.
The impressive yield and quality that Shizuoka has maintained ever since it first introduced wasabi cultivation, is clearly the result of many people's hard work and ingenuity over the centuries. Thus, Shizuoka wasabi can be described as the product of abundant, clear streams combined with human intellect.

Birthplace of Wasabi Cultivation

Wasabi has always been found growing wild in mountainous areas all over Japan, but wasabi cultivation as it exists worldwide today did not begin until around 1600 when farmers in what is now Utogi District in Shizuoka Prefecture began planting it near sources of spring water.
The shogun ruler of Japan took a liking to this wasabi, which meant that for quite a while Utogi District had a virtual monopoly on its cultivation; however, knowledge of how to cultivate wasabi eventually reached the Izu region by the mid-18th century, and it was here in 1892 that a method of cultivation known as the “Tatamiishi Style” was born. This “Tatamiishi Style” subsequently spread throughout Izu and the rest of Shizuoka before eventually making its way to the rest of Japan.



Classic “Tatamiishi Style” Wasabi Cultivation Originated in Shizuoka

In the earliest days of wasabi cultivation, the primary method used was the “Jizawa Style”. This first and oldest method of wasabi cultivation involves spreading sand and gravel in wasabi fields planted on steep inclines; this has the benefit of enabling farmers to plant wasabi fields on steeply sloping mountains where there is significant variation in water volume.
Much later in the late 19th century, a stonemason in the Izu region developed the cultivation method known as the “Tatamiishi Style”. This method utilizes a layered construction for wasabi fields, starting with a deep foundation dug into the ground which is then filled with a layer of large stones followed by pebbles followed by fine sand for surface soil. By using the abundance of clear flowing streams to water the fields, farmers were able to filter out impurities and maintain a constant water temperature while simultaneously supplying nutrients and oxygen to the plants; thus, they were able to ensure the consistency of their wasabi yields.

Low Environmental Load Farming Methods

Both the “Tatamiishi and Jizawa Style” of cultivation involve terraced fields that are watered from the upper levels to the lower levels using the abundance of available spring water. Because this spring water already contains various nutrients, almost no fertilizers or agricultural chemicals are used. Thus, these farming methods have an exceptionally low environmental load. This means that the natural abundance of the area around the wasabi fields is preserved and the local biodiversity is kept high.

A Foundation for the Ecosystem

The spring water that flows through the wasabi fields is also used downstream for a variety of agricultural applications, including rice cultivation and the farming of freshwater fish who do best in clear streams, before eventually making its way into rivers that empty into the ocean, from which the water cycle begins anew. Thus, these springs and the surrounding woodland areas that replenish them serve as the foundation for a rich ecosystem.

Enrichment of Biodiversity with Wasabi Fields

The shallow water full of dissolved oxygen that flows through Shizuoka's wasabi fields is home to a huge diversity of freshwater life, including numerous rare and threatened species, such as those found on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment's Red List. These wasabi fields are situated at the headwaters of various rivers where—thanks to the fact that they do not significantly modify the environment nor serve as a vector for invasive species—they play a crucial role in preserving rare species and the robustness of the natural environment.

Oriental Chain Fern

Japanese Clawd Salamander

Beautiful Landscapes in Harmony with the Surrounding Environment

East Asian alders (Alnus hirsuta), which are native to the region, are planted around wasabi fields to serve as sunshades, and the result is a beautiful landscape that blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment. Shizuoka's cultivation methods, which utilize clean energy to produce high-quality wasabi, can be truly described as highly sustainable agricultural systems.

East Asian alders