Yatsugatake walk vol.7

a perfect guide of Yatsugatake area for tourists

Mushroom Master, Beekeeper and pickle making.
The words they recite "Live with Nature" are beautiful (P.6-7)

It is not at a level humans can control it.
Mushroom master & chef
Waraya Kazunori

"As a child, I loved being praised. Therefore, I always did my utmost best to fill my basket of the top with mushroom", says Mr. Waraya. As a chef in Tokyo, I was reintroduced to the taste of mushrooms when we added natural mushrooms to the dishes. Now, it has been a year since I opened my restaurant in Nagasaka, Hokuto city. During the growing season, I go into the forest to look for mushrooms every morning at six o'clock. Through my experience, I have created a "mushroom map" in my head with the places where the soil is well-drained,  the tree vegetation, and where the sun reaches the forest floor. Based on this and the changing conditions I go out, or decide that ‘Today may be better not”. "Even if it means that I will have to wait for three days," he says, "this requires a lot of patience. It is beyond the power of human beings. Therefore, the only thing we can do is waiting.” Not a man of many words, Mr. Waraya continues somewhat stylishly, "However, I just know. This is difficult to explain.  It is as if the mushrooms call out to me, "Today we are here!", "Here we are!". That is when I decide to go out to pick the mushrooms! Then, without fail, I able to find the right mushrooms."

The mushroom season near Yatsugatake starts in the second half of June when my favorite Akayama doritake(Porcini, Boletus edulis) can be picked. I would also like to recommend the so-called Japanese Porcini or Yamatakemodoki (Summer cep, Boletus reticulatus), abundant during the summer, the Shichitake (Lactarius volemus), Kuritake (Hypholoma sublateritium), Shimofurishimeji (Charbonnier, Tricholoma portentosum ), among others. Altogether, there are about 25 to 30 different types which you can enjoy until the first half of November.

Flowers, Bees and People
Mr. Niitsu Hachiro

"To produce one teaspoon of honey, bees have to visit tens-of-thousands of flowers." These affectionate words are uttered by Mr. Niitsu who runs a beekeeping business in Koumi town. We asked him about living with bees.
In spring, between February and May, " I take the bees to Annaka, Gunma prefecture. There, the hives stay a plum orchard. The bees can develop and gain strength while helping the grower to pollinate the plum trees. A job which the grower would otherwise have to do all by himself. It is a win-win situation for both sides."
In May, they move to Komoro and Toumi in Nagano. "At the beginning of the summer, they will gather, the with customers immensely popular, acacia nectar with its delicate taste. Next, they move to the Chikuma River midstream and finally, they come back upstream around here. Meanwhile, there are the cherry blossoms in spring, the horse-chestnut at the beginning of summer, Chestnut in mid-summer, different flowers at the end of summer and Japanese clover in autumn. All-in-all, a wide variety of honey will be collected."
Mr. Niitsu loads the nest boxes on a truck in pursuit of flowers. Then, at the places they visit, the bees outside gather abundant fragrant nectar which will be entrusted from mouth-to-mouth to the workers inside. From here, the workers inside condense the nectar through creating a strong wind with their wings, thus increasing the maximum sugar content of the honey to about 82.5%.
As humans, we do not take more of our share than the compensation for the care we give. Maybe it sounds a little cheeky, but all parties involved feel grateful for each other. Mr. Niitsu said, "There is always a feeling of relief opening a nest box, and you see how these tens-of-thousands of bees divide their work so well."
We human beings could still learn a lot from them.

The taste of real pickles
Koji(Malt) manufacturing industry and agricultural products processing
Ms. Yuko Mita
Ms. Chieko Yamada

Have you eaten real pickles recently?
With real, we mean, vegetables thoroughly pickled with spices and fermented rice-bran or Koji (malt).
Once, making pickles was at the core of family activities but this tradition has been in steady decline. We visited two women in Hakushu town who are keeping the traditional process alive. Their names are Ms. Yuko Mita and Ms. Chieko Yamada. "The water used to wash the vegetables when making pickles is important too. And you know,  the water in this area is filtered through granite", says Ms.  Yamada proudly, "The effect of what you eat does not directly show after one meal. But you know, it accumulates. We can not neglect this.” “Pickles are an always readily available side dish", continues Yamada.
Ms. Mita, who learned how to make Koji (malt) at a Japanese sake brewery and is now also in charge of the production of koji for Miso and pickles, said that "When a customer tells me that "The miso soup was so delicious", I am only half happy. I also worry that it is might not be good enough for the normal food tradition. I understand the trend to want to sterilize everything, and why this is important, but if you would want to stop the fermentation process, I wonder why we eat pickles?" What consequences will this have for the Japanese food culture?
While conducting the interview, we taste miso that has been condensed for five years, and rice rolled into salt pickled Chinese cabbage with the smell of kelp. Things that were taken for granted in the past are now becoming precious. "Someone who pays attention to the importance of the dining table, and who keeps real pickles in regard will also be able to take care of many other things." The inspiring taste was an enlightening sensation.