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Area PR (November 2019)

Rural Landscape Musings while Sampling Local Kawajima Town Fare

Kawajima, Saitama Prefecture
川島町産いちご

Kawajima Town in Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture, is an area surrounded by beautiful natural scenery roughly 45 kilometers away from the metropolitan city center. Approximately 60% of its land is farming fields, with rice as one of its traditional crops. Currently, the region grows various kinds of produce in addition to rice, boasts the largest production of figs in Saitama Prefecture, and is also one of the major growing areas for strawberries in the prefecture as well.

Recently, visitors from afar have been flocking to the region to sample Kawajima cuisine, including lining up to experience dining at the popular noodle shop Chuka Soba Yotsuba or visiting the soy sauce brewery Fueki Shoyu Brewing, which was established in the first year of the Kansei era (1789–1801). For this article, we will introduce specialty foods and local products created with pride in Kawajima Town.

*Kawajima Town products introduced in this article are also available as thank-you gifts when donations to Furusato Nozei (Hometown Tax) are made. Please visit the Furusato Choice, Satofull, or Rakuten Hometown Tax websites for details.

Rice Branded by Kawagoe Clan

The region features level soil surrounded by rivers on all sides. Delicious and nourishing rice has been harvested here traditionally, with a history of this rice being regularly offered to Kawagoe Clan during the Edo period (1603-1868). Now, about 60% of Kawajima Town’s land area is used for farming, with rice being the most popular crop. Furthermore, along with the glorious past of this rice, initiatives for safe and worry-free rice production have been recognized as Specially-grown Crops of Saitama Prefecture, proof of its high quality and taste.

In 1992, the local agricultural co-op decided to register the Rice Branded by Kawagoe Clan as a trademark. The promotion committee for the rice branded by Kawagoe Clan launched in 2011The Rice Branded by Kawagoe Clan comes in two varieties—Koshihikari and Sai No Kizuna. Only 100 farmers, who are members of the Committee, are permitted to grow the Rice Branded by Kawagoe Clan. The rice derives its brand power from its completely pesticide-reduced growing method with organic fertilizers. But fewer pesticides mean an increased risk of insects that can bring disease. In order to reduce this risk, the farmers are working hard day and night on the Cellar Rice.

“Kawajima has distinct temperature fluctuations between day and night, so the rice stores starch. Water for rice paddies used to be from wells and rivers. Thanks to irrigation, the water is now distributed completely to all paddy fields and that led to more stable production,” said Ikuo Uchino, chairman of the promotion committee for the rice branded by Kawagoe Clan.

Related Article
45 km from Central Tokyo: Kawajima’s Bounteous Agricultural Products

JA埼玉中央

  • 川越藩のお蔵米
  • 内野郁夫
  • 川越藩のお蔵米

Kawajima Town Strawberries

Strawberries started being harvested in Kawajima Town around 1958. As the years went on, the quantity of strawberries harvested also increased, and is now one of the major strawberry production areas in Saitama Prefecture. There are tourist farms in the town which offer strawberry picking, to which visitors from afar come to visit.

The most commonly grown strawberry types in the town are Tochiotome, Akihime, and Benihoppe. Tochiotome is known for their juiciness and firm fruit. It is sweet with a moderate acidity and a powerful fragrance. Akihime features a lighter color than other strawberries and has a distinctively narrower shape. It has a pleasant fragrance, softer fruit with less acidity for a juicy and refreshing sweetness. Benihoppe is a nice, firm fruit with strong sweetness and acidity, enabling people to experience the original sweet-and-sour taste of strawberries along with a robust taste.

Satoshi Matsugami of Strawberry Hunt decided to become a farmer after seeing this district, which had active strawberry farming but a dwindling population of farmers, and continues to challenge himself toward new heights of strawberry production, saying, “I want to do anything I can to support young farmers who will carry this town on their backs.”

■Related Article
Ripe Strawberry Ice Cream, with Each Strawberry Nurtured by the Commitment of the Grower

川島町産いちご

  • 川島町産苺
  • 松上悟志
  • 川島町産いちご

Kawajima Town Figs

Major fig production started in Kawajima around 2006. Initially it was a pilot shipment of about 300 kilograms. Soon more farmers started to grow figs and by 2014 the production reached approximately 53 tons, the highest production and shipment amounts in Saitama.

Most of the union’s figs are grown using the flat-rod style, where two branches are grown in parallel to the ground. This way the plants get enough air and sun. The union recommends growing with organic fertilizers, and sets strict standards to control quality, including the amount of pesticides permitted, as well as the size, color and sweetness level of the figs. The sugar content is configured to at least 13 degrees, giving these figs their characteristic powerful sweetness.

Kawajima’s figs are shipped from mid-August to mid-November. When they become plump, large and dark red, and their skin taut, that’s when they taste good. Almost all sales outlets for these figs are within the prefecture, as the figs are extremely delicate. It could be said that enjoying fully ripe, perfect figs is a special privilege reserved only for local residents.

When there are any leftover figs, simmering them in syrup to create compote or jam is also recommended. The union started offering frozen figs on a trial basis 2018, which are proving popular for making jam and other processed products.

■Related Article
Fig Confection with the Best Seasonal Flavor
45 km from Central Tokyo: Kawajima’s Bounteous Agricultural Products

川島町産いちじく

  • 無花果
  • 川島町産無花果
  • 川島町産イチジク

Kinbue Seasoning Set

It is said that of all of Japan’s soy sauce, the sauce manufactured in traditional wooden barrels makes up less than one percent. Fueki Shoyu Brewing was established in 1789 and has continued its traditional production of Kioke soy sauce for over 200 years.

“Using wooden barrels and allowing nature to take over the fermentation and aging process takes a long time. However, this is the key in creating delicious soy sauce with a rich flavor,” explains Kichigoro Fueki, the 12th generation head of Fueki Shoyu Brewing. Mr. Fueki grew up with the soy sauce factory and became the head of Fueki Shoyu in 2017.

The Kinbue Seasoning Set is a treasure box of this Fueki Shoyu artisan spirit. Shunkashuto no Dashinomoto (All-season Instant Soup Stock) is based on Fueki’s soy sauce with soup stock made from dried bonito, dried kelp and shiitake mushrooms, and Usuiro Dashinomoto (Lightly-colored Instant Soup Stock) can be used to season various dishes as a soup base for simmered dishes, or as a soy sauce for sprinkling. Furthermore, Kinbue Saishikomi Namashoyu is a luxury soy sauce that pursues umami, offering the unique fragrance of raw, unheated soy sauce with a rich taste created through two brewing processes. The addictive spiciness of Togarashi Shoyu (Red Pepper Soy Sauce) and the rich taste of Goma Dressing (Sesame Dressing) can be used as dipping sauces for shabu-shabu dishes as well.

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A Traditional Soy Sauce Brewery Focuses on the Future with its Soy Sauce for Sweets

  • 笛木醤油
  • 笛木吉五郎
  • 笛木醤油

金笛調味料セット

Chuka Soba Yotsuba Ramen Set

In 2013, Chuka Soba Yotsuba opened in Kawajima Town. This unique ramen shop, which also features a sushi restaurant, instantly became famous, with customers across the country lining up for a taste.

Popular dishes here are Yotsuba Soba. The soup for Yotsuba Soba is created from local Hinai chicken and Amakusa Daio chicken soup stock, five different types of soy sauce and chicken oil. The taste is simple but rich, with an elegant flavor without being too greasy, making it popular with customers of any age, both men and women.

“I decided to use local ingredients, since I was going to open shop locally. I wanted to promote the tastes of Kawajima in my own way. When developing the menu, I visited many local manufacturers, and came across Kinbue Saisikomi Namashoyu and Topran in my travels. The Kinbue Saisikomi Namashoyu is absolutely necessary for creating the flavor of my ramen,” says the owner of the establishment, Kazuto Iwamoto.

How about sampling this ramen, with its carefully selected ingredients to the last drop!

■Related Article
The Ultimate Ramen Featuring Flavors of Kawajima

中華そば四つ葉

  • 四つ葉そば
  • 岩本和人
  • 中華そば四つ葉ラーメンセット

Since 2018, the town of Kawajima has recognized quality products that communicate the wonderful aspects of the Kawajima Town as KJ (Kawajima) Brands, which include the Rice Branded by Kawagoe Clan, figs and strawberries of this article. By establishing a brand, we may look forward to more special, local products full of the rich natural habitat and culture of the area. Don’t miss any further developments of Kawajima Town!

Other Kawajima Town Specialty/Local Products

*The Kawajima Town products in this article are also available as thank-you gifts when donations to Furusato Nozei (Hometown Tax) are made. Please visit the Furusato Choice, Satofull, or Rakuten Hometown Tax websites for details.

  • Fig Ice Cream

  • Strawberry Milk Ice Cream & Strawberry Sorbet

  • Fig Jam

  • Kawajima Miso

  • Assorted Nobikko Sweets

  • Assorted Seasonal Vegetable

  • Rice Bread/Brown Rice Bread

  • Assorted Rice Crackers

Kawajima Farmers’ Store (JA Saitama Chuo)

Address 239-1, Oaza Minami Sonobe, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture
Hours 9:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m. from April to September,
9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. from October to March
Closed Wednesday
URL http://ja-sc-market.org/kawashima/

Fueki Shoyu Brewing Kawajima Main Store

Address 660 Kamiigusa, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture
Hours 9:00-17:30 Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: 9:00-17:00
Closed Japanese New Year holiday period
URL https://kinbue.jp/en

Chuka Soba Yotsuba

Address 298 Igusa, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture
Hours 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays)
Closed Tuesday
URL https://yotsuba628.com/

Strawberry Hunt

Address 1072 Kamiomino, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture
URL https://strawberry-hunt.jimdo.com/
Hours Strawberry sale starts at 9:30, closes when sold out Strawberry picking: reception begins at 10:00 (closes when strawberries in season end) December through May: Intermittently closed (please check the dates on the company website or by phone)

Website for KJ (Kawa Jima) brand

URL https://kj-brand-kawajima.jp/

Saitama Prefecture Tourism Information

japan-guide.com http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1213.html
Japan Travel https://en.japantravel.com/saitama