Daio Wasabi Farm
From cold water springs, to a feast fit for kings. Daio Wasabi Farm in Nagano is the king of all Wasabi Farms in more ways than one. Not only is it the largest wasabi farm in Japan, it also boast the most beautiful backdrop. Since being founded in 1915 by Yuichi Fukasawa, the 15 hectares farm has become a thriving tourist attraction. Most striking, is the crystal clear water which runs off the Japanese Alps towering over Azumino.
Daio (大王) translates from Japanese to English as great king. And since all great kings enjoy a good feast, Daio doesn’t disappoint. In an outdoor eating area you’ll find a wasabi-inspired playground for your palate. Chose from wasabi oyaki, wasabi frankfurt, wasabi croquette or indeed try them all. Wash it down with wasabi juice for the brave, or wasabi beer for the braver still. Alternatively, enjoy the famed wasabi soba from within a watermill, or attend a 20 minute wasabi pickles cooking class. Now, can you be tempted with wasabi ice-cream?
On August 2nd 2015, Daio Wasabi Farm celebrated its 100th year anniversary. When better to investigate the wasabi journey from plant to plate? It’s free to enter and pet friendly too! Now, as far as secrets go, Daio isn’t a very well kept one. In the summer months especially, the farm is crowded. Luckily, staff are on hand to help drivers navigate the large parking lot. Bus loads of travellers arrive day tripping from Matsumoto, while others earn their wasabi tea cycling the 3km from Hotaka Station. There are bicycle rental shops close to the station, making cycling a stress free way to take in more of Azumino's natural beauty. Remember, driving and cycling under the influence are both against the law in Japan, so if you opt to access the farm by these means you'll be buying your wasabi-themed alcoholic beverages from the souvenir shop to enjoy back at your hotel.
The spring water at Daio is kept at a cool 12 degrees Celsius all year, from which 120, 000 tonnes of water a day yields approximately 150 tonnes of wasabi a year. Little stalls display the prize of this year's cultivation, where fresh wasabi can be bought from 500 yen at the farm. Next door, the souvenir shop offers a whole host of oddities including wasabi chocolate, wasabi salad dressing and wasabi wine. There is a fine line between a tourist attraction, and a tourist trap. Overzealous shoppers may find their new found wasabi enthusiasm spinning wildly out of control. So take advantage of the free tasters where possible to try before you buy.
According to the website Organicfacts.net, wasabi has excellent health benefits too. It's high in fibre and a good source of Vitamin C. Wasabi is said to lower cholesterol, while its antioxidant properties help boost your immune system by fight off bacterial infections. Admittedly, there’s more to eat, than there are things to do at the farm. So be sure to arrive in time for lunch, as the small restaurants take last orders at 2.30pm. Then walk off the wasabi treats exploring the small shrine, and a few little walking trails. So visitors can enjoy wasabi treats, guilt free.