February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi by Kameya Foods

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi by Kameya Foods

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the Japanese horseradish is a unique spice native to Japan and is a staple in Japanese cuisine. The majority of wasabi production comes from Shizuoka Prefecture, so as part of JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s February “With Love, Izu” Omiyage Snack Box, we simply had to include a wasabi snack! 

Kameya Foods Corporation (カメヤ食品) is an authentic Japanese wasabi company, and we’re thrilled to share that their Izu Wasabi Pistachio is one of the delicious snacks featured in our Izu-themed snack box this month. We caught up with Kameya Foods’s Sales Representative, Mr. Ichikawa (市川), to find out more about the region and its wasabi.

 


Video by Kameya Foods

 

Thank you for your time, Ichikawa-san! Please share with us an overview about Kameya. 

Kameya Foods’s history can be traced back to 1947, where the company was founded by a husband-and-wife team in the town of Shimizu in Shizuoka Prefecture. Initially specialising in pickled foods, Kameya was born from the blessings of springwater and ingredients nurtured from the surrounding region, ranging from vegetables to seafood, and of course, wasabi.

Since then, we have combined our cultivated technology and advanced equipment and facilities to develop numerous new products using wasabi as the main ingredient. As a food production company, all of our employees thoroughly share the understanding that “Food is the source of life”. 

 

Freshly grated wasabiPhoto by Kameya Foods

 

What a rich history and background! Which wasabi product is your company’s best-seller?

Kameya’s best-selling wasabi product is the Kameya Grated Honwasabi (カメヤ おろし本わさび). The main ingredient, wasabi, is exclusively produced in Shizuoka Prefecture, typically in the Izu area, and our product is characterised by its flavour, spiciness (piquancy), and texture that is as close to freshly grated wasabi as possible.

Kameya's factory is conveniently located within an hour's drive from Amagi, Izu, Japan's top producer of wasabi. The key to producing good wasabi is the speed from when it is harvested to when it is processed.

 

Kameya Foods staff in a wasabi farm
Photo by Kameya Foods

Moreover, the water used in the primary processing stage is sourced from the same subsoil water of Mount Fuji as the Kakitagawa Springs, which has been selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waters. This water, which has a constant temperature throughout the year, brings out the flavour of the ingredients.

 

Izu Wasabi Pistachio
Photo by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

 

That indeed does sound fresh! What about the Izu Wasabi Pistachio, which is included in this month’s Omiyage Snack Box? 

Izu Wasabi Pistachio is made with whole pistachios, and it is a sophisticated snack that blends wasabi from Shizuoka Prefecture into a crispy batter. For those who enjoy the stimulating spiciness of wasabi, this snack is great eaten on its own or as an accompaniment to alcoholic beverages (otsumami).

For this snack, we utilise the leaves of the wasabi plant. During the selection process, foreign substances such as insects are carefully removed by hand and human eyes, and as such each leaf is meticulously dried and powdered.

 

Wasabi plantPhoto by Kameya Foods

 

Wow, sounds like a lot of hard work goes into making delicious snacks at Kameya — we hope our customers will enjoy the Izu Wasabi Pistachio snack as much as we do! As a wasabi company, is there anything that people should learn about your company’s efforts?

Every part of the wasabi plant—including the rhizome, stem, root, and leaves—is utilised, leaving no waste. Even the by-products generated during the primary processing, such as trimmings, are dried and powdered for use.

 

Wasabi leavesWasabi leaves | Photo by Kameya Foods

Wasabi cultivation is challenging—it takes around 1.5 to 2 years from cultivation to harvest. The company contributes to the local community by promoting sixth industrialisation, from raw materials to production and sales, in collaboration with producers in the Izu area and by growing wasabi at the Kameya Farm.

 

Kameya's Wasabi farm
Kameya Wasabi Farm | Photo by Kameya Foods

 

Is there anything unique about where your wasabi products are produced that you would like our readers to know? 

As a major producer of wasabi, the Izu region was recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) for the "Traditional WASABI Cultivation in Shizuoka Water Wasabi" in March 2018. As the Izu region has not been heavily developed for tourism, it remains tranquil with the soothing sound of water. If you have the opportunity, please do visit.

 

Wasabi fields of Ikadaba and Joren Falls of IzuWasabi fields of Ikadaba & Joren Falls | Photo by photoAC (left) & Izu City

 

That’s very interesting! What are some attractions that only the locals of Izu would know about?

Located in the heart of the Izu Peninsula, Ikadaba (筏場) was used as the setting for a Japanese drama film “Chronicle of My Mother” 「わが母の記」. Another local secret is Joren Falls (浄蓮の滝), which is a powerful 25m waterfall, which is the setting for Sayuri Ishikawa's ballad “Amagi-goe” 「天城越え」.

 

Kameya Honten, physical shop to buy souvenirs from the regionPhoto by Kameya Foods

 

Do you have a physical shop in Japan, and do you sell any of your products overseas?

Our products can be found all across Japan, but all 7 of our shops are located in Shizuoka Prefecture. Our main shop (カメヤ本店) is located in Shimizu-cho, and you can find a wider variety of food products perfect for gifts there including wasabi pickles, pickled plums, and miso. The main shop is also housed in the original building from the time of its founding!

Kameya exports grated honwasabi, wasabi furikake (sprinkle toppings), as well as wasabi dressing. Our Grated Honwasabi is particularly popular in China and the USA, while wasabi furikake is popular in Europe.

 

Kameya farmers and staff in front of a wasabi fieldPhoto by Kameya Foods

 

Lastly, do you have a message for our readers?

「わさびの魅力を是非伊豆で味わってください。生わさびは、辛さ以外に甘さや風味、そして香りを堪能いただけます。」

Come and taste the fascinating world of wasabi in Izu. Fresh wasabi is not only spicy, but also sweet, savoury, and fragrant. We are waiting for you in Izu!

 

The Izu Peninsula is easily accessible from Tokyo! To get to Izu, you can take JR East’s sightseeing train SAPHIR ODORIKO or the Limited Express Odoriko (around 2-3 hours). 

JAPAN RAIL CLUB is featuring the area of Izu this February! Subscribe to JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Snack Box Subscription Plan to try Kameya Foods’ Izu Wasabi Pistachio in “With Love, Izu” Omiyage Snack Box, exclusively available in February 2024. Order yours now!

Meet the author

Sue Lynn

Currently based in Tokyo, Sue Lynn first came to Japan as a university exchange student. With 6 years of experience in Japan's inbound tourism, she is familiar with Japan, particularly on rail passes and East Japan spots, and has a passion for travelling.

Sue is also passionate about Japan's thrifting culture, and is keen to uncover more hidden gems while visiting all 47 prefectures during her stay in Japan.

Sue's 5Cs are cats, cameras, cinema, climbing, and city pop. Ask her about how her favourite JR Pass (JR TOKYO Wide Pass) saved her life (and wallet).

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