Daio Wasabi Farm
A spicy taste of rural Japan.
Visitors to Matsumoto can choose from a number of appealing side trips in the surrounding area, from the scenic beauty of Kamikochi to the low-key charm of Narai-Juku. Just 30 minutes north of the city by train, Azumino City is home to another popular destination: Daio Wasabi Farm.
The facility not only boasts some of the highest quality wasabi in Japan but also offers a refreshing alternative to the usual city hopping and temple going that can begin to wear on travelers over time.
Decidedly rural in flavor, the Daio Wasabi Farm sits idyllically in the shadow of the Northern Japan Alps, with which has an unexpectedly intimate connection: the pure water that nurtures the farm’s wasabi crop comes from the Azusa River, whose ultimate source is melted snow from nearby mountaintops and spring water originating deep within the iconic Mount Yari. There is also a religious dimension to the waters of Azusa, as the Hotaka Shrine in Azumino performs annual omizutori (water drawing) and omizugaeshi (water returning) rituals with the affiliated Myojin Shrine in Kamikochi.
Sightseeing at the farm
Since it’s construction in 1915, the Daio Wasabi Farm has been producing a large annual yield of high-quality wasabi and has come to occupy 15 hectares (150,000 square meters) of land. As for what you can expect from the farm itself, there’s plenty to pass a refreshing and laid back day in the country. For those of us who’ve been having wasabi in our sushi with no thought of its origin, seeing it being cultivated in the freshest, clearest water in Japan is educational.
More than that, the rustic setting powerfully evokes rural life in old Japan—so much so that the legendary director Kurosawa Akira chose the farm as the setting for a key scene in his 1990 film, “Dreams.” The production also added specially made, historically authentic water wheels which we can still see today. You can even sit on a large stone where Kurosawa held court during filming and take in the scene as he once did.
Explore the grounds of the farm at your leisure or join a glass bottom boat tour of the surrounding waterways. Pleasing green foliage, expansive pond-side scenes, and bracing country air weave a certain spell, magically removing city fatigue in an instant. Of additional interest, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the farm’s patron divinity Hachiman Daio sits at the center of the complex, offering blessing and protection to the harvest.
If you’re looking for a novel snack or souvenir, the onsite shop offers such oddball confections as wasabi ice cream, wasabi juice and even wasabi beer. For something more traditional, a taste of hon wasabi or freshly grated wasabi root can be a revelation for anyone used to squeezing it out of tubes.