26 January 2015

Fukui Nature Conservation Center / 福井県自然保護センター

Fukui Nature Conservation Center  福井県自然保護センター

Part 13 of the series: Satoyama Concept in Fukui

The Fukui Nature Conservation Center is located in the mountains of Okeutsukogen Prefectural Natural Park, just outside the city of Ōno.  The exhibitions educate about the flora and fauna of Fukui Prefecture with interactive exhibits, models, and activities.   

There is an impressive model of a traditional satoyama landscape that demonstrates how the countryside looked before the industrialisation of farming methods.  The cross-section of the wetland area nestled between mountain ranges shows how fish and other aquatic life were able to pass easily into the rice paddies, providing nourishment for the storks.  This gave us a deeper understanding of the kinds of landscapes the Kōnotori “Call Back the Storks” Farming project hopes to restore with their fish ladders in order to facilitate the return of the Oriental White Stork to the region.

My kids were particularly interested in the live animals that they could observe and sometimes interact with.   The center has aquariums with turtles and other local aquatic animals.  The kids were allowed to take the stag beetle from its cage and handle it.  The center offers many activities for children and grown-ups (JP only) including bird watching, nature walks, nature lectures, and more.  One special feature of the nature centre that we were not able to experience because we were there during daytime hours was its impressive observatory.  More information and photographs can be found on the International Planetarium List

Contact information:

169-11-2 Minamirokuroshi, Ono, Fukui Prefecture
912-0131 大野市南六呂師169-11-2

Tel : 0779-67-1655
e-mail : sizen@fncc.jp

2015 Cathy Munroe Hotes

Yoshimura Organic Farm / よしむら農園

Yoshimura Organic Farm / よしむら農園

Part 12 of the series: Satoyama Concept in Fukui

While in Fukui Prefecture last summer as part of the Satoyama Forum, we met local farmer Yoshihiko Yoshimura.  After retiring from conventional farming, Mr. Yoshimura became interested in organic farming methods.  Together with his wife Haruko, he established Yoshimura Organic Farm (よしむら農園) with the aims of promoting healthy eating, nature conservation, and sustainable organic agriculture in their community of Wakasa. 

The Yoshimuras specialise in the Aigamo Method of rice growing.  This method was originally developed in 1989 by Takao Furuno in Fukuoka Prefecture.  Instead of using pesticides and herbicides, this method uses aigamo ducks to eat insects and weeds.  Aigamo ducks are a crossbreed of wild and domestic duck species.  Aigamo ducklings are released into the paddy a couple weeks after rice seedlings have been planted.  In addition to eliminating the need for pulling weeds by hand, the ducklings’ droppings fertilize the rice paddy and their movements in the paddy increase the oxygen content of the soil. 

For more detailed information about duck farming, visit the Yoshimura Organic Farm website (JP only) or read  FARMING RICE WITH DUCKS: Organic Growing Method Spreads Across Asia (October 22, 2002).

In addition to Aigamo rice, the Yoshimura’s have an organic ume (plum) orchard and sell homemade Ume Jam.   As I mentioned in when writing about Plum Ice Cream Cakes last month, Fukui is famous for its local variety of plum, which is characterised by its thick flesh and small pit.  The Yoshimura’s also sell a lovely Spring Gift Basket (春ちゃんセット) that features an assortment of products including:

Aigamo Rice (Yoshimura Organic Koshikari)
Milky Queen (Low Amylose Rice)
Black Rice
黒米(朝紫)モチ米 100g
Red Rice
赤米(ベニ都)モチもち米 100g
Black Rice Flour
黒米の粉 80g
Red Rice Flour
赤米の粉 80g
Bunch of Dried Flowers
ドライフラワー 1
Soy Beans
大豆 150g
Azuki Beans
小豆 150g

The baskets range in price from 1,000 to 1,500円 depending on the availability of products.   All products are grown and processed by the Yoshimuras on their farm. 

To learn more about Yoshimura Organic Farm (よしむら農園), check out their website:

Contact information:
Yoshihiko and Haruko Yoshimura
吉村義彦 ・春子

34-28 Aida, Wakasa-chō, Mikatakaminaka-gun, Fukui-ken

認定番号 2000F-5
農家登録番号 18-07

2015 Cathy Munroe Hotes

25 January 2015

Soba Making at Starland Sakadani / スターランドさかだにのそば打ち体験

Soba Making at Starland Sakadani / スターランドさかだにのそば打ち体験

 Part 11 of the series: Satoyama Concept in Fukui

The Echizen region of Fukui Prefecture is famous for its soba.  Most people think of rice as being the staple grain of the Japanese diet, but buckwheat is actually the traditional staple in many parts of Japan.  This is particularly true of regions that were not conducive to the growing of rice such as those at higher elevations and in the colder climate of the north.  The popularity of buckwheat is demonstrated in the fact that the Japanese word for buckwheat, soba, is also the common word for traditional Japanese noodles. 

 Learn more about Fukui's Buckwheat Fields (pdf)

As part of the Satoyama Forum in Fukui Prefecture last summer, we visited Starland Sakadani to participate in a soba-making workshop.  Soba noodles consist only of buckwheat mixed with wheat flour and water.  The art is in how the dough is kneaded, rolled, folded, and sliced. 

As we made the soba, behind the scenes women were cooking traditional local food to serve with the noodles.  The meal was completely vegetarian because this is a mountainous area.   Traditionally they would have they would not have had much in the way of livestock and in the days before modern transport, the location was too far from the sea for fresh fish and seafood.  Outside of Buddhist temples, it is rare to be served a vegan meal in Japan, let alone a feast such as the one we enjoyed at Starland Sakadani.

If you would like to try making soba yourself, check out Starland Sakadani’s step-by-step instructions with photos (translation below) or book yourself a workshop using the contact details at the bottom of this post.

Handmade Soba in 15 Steps

Step 1 / 手順.1
Sift the flour.  粉をふるいにかける
Sift buckwheat (soba) flour and wheat flour into a large bowl.

Step 2 /手順.2
Mix the flour.  粉をよく混ぜる
Using your fingertips, mix the buckwheat flour and wheat flour together.

Step 3 / 手順.3
Add water 1.  水回しその1
Pour water directly onto the flour a small bit at a time. . .

Step 4 / 手順.4
Add water 2.  水回しその2
Using your fingertips, mix the flour and water until the flour resembles large crumbs. 

Step 5 / 手順.5
Fold the dough.  くくり
Gently turn and press the dough to start shaping it into a ball.

Step 6 / 手順.6
Knead the dough 1.  練りその
Knead the dough pushing the weight of your body firmly into it until it becomes a smooth consistency.

Step 7 / 手順.7
Knead the dough 2.  練りその2
Press and rotate the dough into the shape of a large dumpling. 

Step 8 /手順.8
Press the dough.  地のし
Slowly press the dough into a fat round of approximately 20 cm in diameter. 
(打ち粉を生地の下に多めに振って) めん棒又は手のひらで押して直径20cmくらいまで生地を伸ばします。(以後、打ち粉は少なめに)

Step 9 / 手順.9
Roll out the dough.  丸出し
Begin flattening the dough with a rolling pin until the dough has increased in diameter to about 60cm. 

Step 10 / 手順.10
Form into a square 1. 角出しその1
With a long slender rolling pin, roll the dough into the shape of a square.

Step 11 / 手順.11
Form into a square 2.  角出しその2
Continue rolling the square until it reaches the size of 90cm per side.

Step 12 / 手順.12
Fold into rectangle. たたみ
Fold the square of dough into a rectangular shape of many layers.  Sprinkle flour generously between each layer to prevent them sticking.   The width of the rectangle should be no more than the length of your knife.

Step 13 / 手順.13
Cut.  切り
Using a wooden board to mark the size and a large knife, slice the dough into noodles of approximately 2mm thick.

Step 14 / 手順.14
Boil.  茹で
Bring water to a full boil, and boil the noodles for no more than 2 minutes.
そばが泳ぐ位のたっぷりのお湯で。茹で時間は、約 2分以内に。

Step 15 / 手順.15
Serve.  盛り付け
Rinse the noodles and serve them in a dashi broth with grated daikon, bonito flakes, spring onions and other toppings according to your preference. 

Contact information:
Starland Sakadani

大野市役所 スターランドさかだに
福井県大野市蓑道1-4 (Google Maps)
1-4 Minomichi, Ōno-shi, Fukui-ken

Tel.  +81 779-67-7250
Open: 9am to 4pm

2015 Catherine Munroe Hotes


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