A fiery and zesty taste of Japan’s countryside.
From the breathtaking splendor of Kamikochi to the low-key charm of Narai-Juku, visitors enjoying Matsumoto can select from a variety of interesting side trips in the surrounding area. Another popular location is Daio Wasabi Farm, which is only 30 minutes north of the city by train.
The facility not only serves some of Japan’s best wasabi, but it also provides a welcome break from the normal city hopping and temple visits, which may become tiresome after a while.
The Daio Wasabi Farm, with its decidedly rural profile, sits idyllically in the shadow of the Northern Japan Alps, with which it has an unexpectedly intimate connection: the Azusa River, whose ultimate source is melted snow from nearby mountaintops and spring water originating deep within the iconic Mount Yari, provides the farm’s wasabi crop with pure water. The waters of Azusa also have a religious significance, as the connected Myojin Shrine in Kamikochi performs annual omizutori (water pulling) and omizugaeshi (water returning) rites with the Hotaka Shrine in Azumino.
Visitor attractions at the farm
The Daio Wasabi Farm has been generating a big annual production of high-quality wasabi since its establishment in 1915, and it now occupies 15 hectares (150,000 square meters) of land. When it comes to the farm itself, there’s plenty to keep you occupied on a relaxing day in the country. For those of us who have been eating wasabi in sushi without knowing where it comes from, seeing it grown in Japan’s purest, clearest water is eye-opening.
More than that, the farm’s rustic landscape evocatively reflects rural life in old Japan—to the point where famed director Akira Kurosawa picked the farm as the setting for a pivotal sequence in his 1990 film “Dreams.” Specially manufactured, historically accurate water wheels were also included in the production, which may still be seen today. You may even sit on a large stone where Kurosawa once presided over filming and soak in the scene as he did.
Explore the farm’s grounds at your leisure or take a glass-bottom boat tour of the nearby waterways. Pleasing green foliage, vast pond-side landscapes, and refreshing country air almost instantly removes city fatigue. A Shinto shrine devoted to the farm’s patron divinity, Hachiman Daio, sits at the heart of the complex, where locals believe it bestows blessings and protection on the harvest.
The onsite shop has unusual confections like wasabi ice cream, wasabi juice, and even wasabi beer if you’re searching for a unique snack or gift. A taste of hon wasabi or freshly grated wasabi root, for example, might be a revelation for someone used to squeezing it out of tubes.
What you should know
Operation hours and fees
The Daio Wasabi Farm is open all year. From March through October, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. From November to February, the hours are 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. The crops are covered in black tarps throughout the summer months, but this is only a little obstructive to the aesthetic attractiveness. The grounds are free to enter, but a boat tour costs 900 yen for the 15-minute Azumino Course and 1,800 yen for the 30-minute Alps Course.
Where to go and getting there
Japan, 〒399-8303 Nagano-ken, Azumino-shi, Hotaka, レストラン大王
Take the Super Azusa from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station (about 2.5 hours, 6,500 yen one way, non-reserved, Japan Rail Pass covered).
Take the Oito line from Matsumoto to Hotaka station (30 minutes, 320 yen one way, covered by Japan Rail Pass) and then take a taxi or shuttle bus (10 minutes, 1,300 yen one way, respectively).
Matsumoto is around 20-30 minutes away by vehicle. On-site parking is available for a fee.