THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF CHUBU
VENTURE ACROSS THE TOYAMA, NAGAO AND GIFU PREFECTURES TO EXPERIENCE THE HEART OF JAPAN
Go on adventure across the Toyama, Nagao and Gifu Prefectures to experience the heart of Japan
GIFU FOOD-REPLICA WORKSHOP
Eating is always a delight but it’s best to watch where food will go if one is visiting the Food Replica Workshop of Gujo Hachiman town. While looking delicious and intensely enticing, none of the food created in the workshop is actually edible as it is made from wax, plastic resin and other acrylic materials. The method was commercialised by Takizo Iwasaki in 1932, a painter who is said to currently hold 70% of the market share in the fake foods replica business. The first of Iwasaki’s creations was said to be an omelette dubbed “The Commemorative Ome.” Visitors are free to try to create their very own shrimp tempura pieces for a small fee.
Up the winding road of Route 360 is the Shirakawa-go Observation point which offers a tremendous view of the UNESCO World Heritage site the “Shirakawa-go Village” which houses some 114 traditional “Gassho style” buidlings. The traditional gassho houses are characterised by their large steeped thatched roofs, which resemble the hands of monks folded in prayer, hence its name “gassho” which means to pray. Some may attribute the survival of the gassho houses to the grace of heaven but it is actually the unseen efforts of the 600 villagers that has sustained these relics against the vicissitudes of dilapidation, fire and snow. Using a communal labour-sharing system called “Yui”, villagers band together in harmony to preserve the houses and also assist in the sharing of resources. The process of maintaining and changing the roof of a gassho style house generally takes three days to remove and about one day to rebuild. One may observe the roofs of the houses face both the east and the west and this actually serves to maintain the durability of the houses against sunlight.
NAGANO DAIO WASABI FARM
Mention ‘wasabi’ and those who are familiar with this nasal-clearing plant will be up in clamour. Those who truly know their stuff know that pure wasabi isn’t found in a tube paste form and is actually ground from a horseradish of the Brassicacceae family. Shigetoshi Hama, former writer turned Wasabi Master at Daio Wasabi Farm, informs that to truly savour the true flavours of wasabi one has to ingest it within 3 minutes of grinding. Wasabi boasts a myriad of health benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure to preventing the risk of stroke. The wasabi plants are closely monitored to ensure that water temperatures are kept at a comfortable 10-15 degrees Celsius with neutral ph and clean and clear quality. The Daio wasabi farm measures some 15 hectares and has existed since 1917.
HABIRO MIRAHASHI FARM
Visiting the Habiro Mirahashi Farm is a journey back to the days of agriculture and everyday farm living. With 1,500 blueberry trees, the workers at the farm would tell you that the way to truly enjoy blueberries is not to eat them one by one but by a handful at a go. The nearby Tomato No Ki restaurant offers a delicious international buffet but those who are handy in the kitchen can attempt the delicate and fun task of making their own buckwheat or “Soba” noodles with the guidance of soba noodle master, Ken Karasawa. A bespectacled senior citizen of modest appeal, Karasawa-sama would hand down the methods to help one create the perfect soba noodle. Sharing his wisdom with us, Karasawa-sama would say, “Life should be like soba noodles – it doesn’t matter if its thick or thin, what matters is that it should be long and fruitful.”
TOYAMA TONAMI-TULIP GALLERY
The beauty of tulips is frequently equated to that of Keukenhof Gardens located in the Netherlands. While it is true that few could compete with the world’s largest flower garden, Tonami Tulip Gallery certainly comes close as visitors can enjoy the beauty of tulips all year long in its magical gardens. Over 1,500 species of tulips are grown in the gallery using special cultures to keep the plants alive. In addition to the cultures, the gallery also houses speciality freezers and sunrooms to maintain the survivability of the plants. The highlight of the gallery is the annual tulip fair held in late April to early May which showcases 3 million blooming tulips with over 700 varieties.
TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE (MURODO HEIGHTS)
Measuring over 2,450m, Murodo Heights on the Tateyama-kurobe Alpine route is the highest point accessible by vehicle and offers a magnificent picturesque view of Mt. Tateyama which measures 3,015 metres. An impressive sight to behold, the heights are reminiscent of the “Misty Mountains” shown in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The beautiful scene is accompanied by slabs of pristine snow and tiny alpine flowers littered across green fields. Ornithology enthusiasts can try spotting Ptarmigans, or “Raicho” in Japanese, down at the Tateyama Nature Conservation Centre. There also exists a nearby spring which offers fresh water for a cool drink and an amazing-looking pond by the name of “Mukurigaike Pond”. In June, one can see the stunning views of Mt Tateyama reflected on the surface of the cobalt blue hues of the volcanic crater pond.