FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (3)-12017/10/17（Tue）
♪“Tochiotome”, Luxury Strawberry developed by Tochigi Prefecture
☆In Japan, there are eight prefectures including Tochigi Prefecture, whose surroundings do not face sea. Therefore, in Tochigi Prefecture, seafood is not caught, but there are many attractive foodstuffs which can be taken in land, rivers and lakes. One of them is the famous strawberry “Tochiotome”.
☆Wild Strawberries are found all over the world, but cultivation of strawberries started from the mid-17th century to the 18th century in Europe which were England, France, Holland etc. Full-fledged cultivation of strawberry in Japan began in the Meiji era by introducing from England and others. At that time, cultivation of strawberry was carried out mainly in Shizuoka Prefecture. But the harvest volume of strawberries in Tochigi Prefecture is ranked to be first among all Japanese prefectures from 1968 to the present.
☆Here, let’s see the history of strawberry of Tochigi Prefecture. The production of strawberries in Tochigi Prefecture started in the Meiji 40s (1907’s). However, the strawberry cultivation was a minor agriculture in Tochigi at that time and that this microfarming continued until the beginning of the Second World War in 1941. The cultivation of strawberry inTochigi restarted when the war ended in 1945 and the cultivation and production became full-fledged around 1954. Thereafter, as mentioned above, the yielding amount of strawberry in Tochigi Prefecture ranked first in all Japanese prefectures for about 50 years from 1968. The main force of which is "Tochiotome".
☆The reasons for the king situation of strawberry production in Tochigi Prefecture are that the climate is suitable for the cultivating of strawberry, suitable for as a second farm product (strawberry) after rice harvested, and large effort of strawberry farmers and related people. Especially, researchers in the “Tochigi Prefecture Agricultural Experiment Station” have studied to create Tochigi-original strawberries. As a result, "Tochiotome" was obtained in 1996 which is large-sized and sweet species. “Tochiotome” takes advantage of the characteristics of its parent, “Nyoho”, which is the species having rather strong sourness taste but good color and shape.
“Tochiotome” has characters which are stable high yield, excellent gloss, less acidity and sweet fruit juice with high sugar content of 9 to 10%. Consequently it is eaten favorably all over Japan as a luxury strawberry representing Japan..
☆You can eat Tochigi original strawberries other than “Tochiotome” which are “Tochihime”, “Natsuotome”, “Skyberry” and “Tochihitomi” etc. Anyway, go toTochigi Prefecture and eat strawberries !
♪Local Cuisines of Tochigi Prefecture, "Utsunomiya Gyoza” ( “Gyoza” made in Utsunomiya) and “Yuba Ryori”(Cuisines of Bean-card Skin)
☆Utsunomiya City is the capita city of Tochigi Prefecture and ‟Gyoza” is a dumpling with pork and vegetable stuffs. The PR of Utsunomiya City in 1990 in which it was described that “Regarding consumption money amount for ”Gyoza” for one yea, Utsunomiya citizens are consuming the most in Japan”. The content of this PR was well known throughout whole Japan by the mass communication. Soldiers of the 14th Army Division of Utsunomiya were dispatched to Harbin region in China for the Manchurian Incident (armed conflict between Japan and China occurred in 1931 – 1933) and the Second World War. The dispatched soldiers from Utsunomiya made “Gyoza” after they returned from China on the basis of their memories how to make “Gyoza” getting during stay in China when they returned to Utsunomiya. This is the beginning of “Utsunomiya Gyoza”. The characteristic of “Utsunomiya Gyoza” is that many vegetables are used. In the original Chinese Gyoza, cabbage is main ingredient, so “Utsunomiya Gyoza” is faithful to the Chinese Gyoza recipe. The idea of “Utsunomiya Gyoza” is that meat is not main stuff. When baking “Utsunomiya Gyoza”, cooks are cautioned to bake the Gyoza’s skin crispy. High yield of cabbage, leek, wheat and pork inTochigi Prefecture may contribute to the development of “Utsunomiya Gyoza”. If you go to Utsunomiya, please eat “Utsunomiya Gyoza”.
☆”Yuba” of “Yuba Ryori” is traditional processed food of soybeans. When soybean milk made from soybeans is heated gently, a film is formed on the surface. The film is called “Yuba” which contains protein and fat in plenty. “Yuba Ryori” is one of Buddhist cuisines made by vegetable stuff only. “Yuba Ryori” belongs to “Shojin Cuisine” (“Shojin Ryori”). “Shojin” means the dedication and devotion of Monk’s mind to practicing Buddism. ”Yuba” is now used for both “Shojin Ryori” and “Kaiseki Ryori” which was developed based upon the “Tea Ceremony (Chakai in Japanese)”. In Tochigi Prefecture, “Yuba” is often used as an ingredient for “Chirashi Sushi” which is a kind of “Sushi”. There are 2 types of “Chirashi Sushi”. One type is the ”Sushi” in which ingredients (vegetables, sliced raw fish, thin strips of egg, wild vegetables, etc) are used as topping on the vinegared cooked rice. The other type is “Sushi” in which the similar ingredients are mixed with the vinegared cooked rice. ”Chirashi Sushi” in Tochigi Prefecture is the ingredient-topping type. Nikko area in Tochigi is well known as a “Yuba” producing place.
Nikko is famous as a place of World Heritage.
♪”Shimonita Negi” (“Shimonita Scallion”)
☆There is a place called ”Shimonita” (Shimonita Town now) in Gunma Prefecture. "Shimonita Negi" (“Shimonita Scallion) which can be taken in only Shimonita area is very famous. ”Negi” (scallion) can be found in most parts of Japan and is a vegetable favorable to Japanese. However, “Shimonita Negi” is a special and finest scallon in Japan. Because this scallion contains three times more protein compared with popular scallion of Japan and it is also rich in vitamins B and C. Although “Shimonita Negi” has strong hot taste, when it is cooked it becomes soft and shows smooth taste including unique sweetness on the togue.
In 1805 in the Edo era , the Lord and upper class of “Samurai” (soldiers) who came from “Joshu (Gunma Prefecture now)” and stayed in Edo (Tokyo now), asked their home-clan to send 200 of “Shimonita Negi” to Edo. Accordingly,”Shimonita Negi” is also known as “Tonosama Negi (Lord-Negi)” by another name.
In 1934, this “Neg” was presented to the Imperial Family. Thus, “Shimonita Negi" has been a luxury good enough to be eaten by people of the upper class. But we are presently able to get “Shimonita Negi” at supermarkets despite of rather expensive.
♪Cabbage of Gunma Prefecture
☆The yielding amount of cabbage in Gunma Prefecture is second in whole Japan. In Tsumagoi village area, the summer/autumn cabbage (“Kashu Cabbage” in Japanese) is harvested from July to October and the yielding amount of this cabbage is always number one in Japan. Because Tsumagoi area is located in highland, morning fog and morning dew give softness and sweetness to the cabbage. Therefore, this cabbage is called “Tsumagoi Highland Cabbage” (“Tsumagoi kogen Cabbage” in Japanese), and this brand is popular for us.
♪In relation to cabbage: Cabage and Cutlet
☆Motojiro Kida, the owner of "Rengatei" which is the name of his restaurant operated at “Ginza” in Tokyo. “Ginza” is the most well known and dignified downtown area．Motojiro was the first to accompany cabbage with pork cutlet in 1895. Actually, when Motojiro was busy, there was not anything suitable for vegetable to accompany with pork cutlet, so he added carved cabbage to the cutlet. As the resut, good estimation for compatibility between the cutlet and cabbage is obtained by the customers , and this combination has been popular in Japan. Of course, in Gunma cabbages including “Tsumagoi Kogen Cabbage” are used for appendage to pork cutlet. ”Rengatei” is still in “Ginza”.
♪”Toge no Kamameshi” as “Ekiben”
☆”Ekiben” is box lunches sold on trains or at stations. “Toge no Kamameshi” is a famous “Ekiben” sold at Yokokawa station which is the terminal station of Shinetsu Line of the East Japan Railway Company. “Toge” means “Pass”. “Kamameshi” is a cuisine that is the soysaurce tasted cooked rice mixed with meat (chikin), vegetables (burdock, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots etc) in a small unglazed pot. Once the Shin-Etsu Line went to Takasaki station（Gunma Prefecture）from Nagano Prefecture via Yokokawa station (Gunma Prefecture) and Karuizawa station (Nagano Prefecture). There is a very scenic pass named “Usui Pass” between Yokokawa station and Karuizawa station. So, it has been said that the passengers enjoyed to see the spectacular view of “Usui Pass” while eating ”Toge no Kamameshi” bought at Yokokawa station. But, when the Nagano Shinkansen Line opened in 1997, the rail line between Yokokawa and Karuizawa became a waste line. Although there is no railroad passing through” Usui Pass” now, at Yokokawa station “Toge no Kamameshi” is still sold.
Mineji Takamizawa who was the Director of a lunch vender company created “Toge no Kamameshi” in 1957. His creation of “Toge no Kamameshi” was originated from his custmer’s request. His customers had requested to make him a “warm station box lunch “(“Ekiben”). He thought about the vessel to contain the cuisine and then he decided to use “Mashiko-Yaki” which is famous ware to keep hotness. And then he succeeded in commercializing of “Toge no Kamameshi” in 1958. His success was the first creation of warm “Ekiben” in Japan. This “Ekiben” becomes now a popular “Ekiben” in Japan because it has situated within 5th place for a long time at the "National Ekiben Tournament" held by a department store in Tokyo.
“Toge no Kamameshi” has worth to eat.
♪Next will be mentioned for the food culture of Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures as Food Culture Anecdotes Part 1 (3)-2.
Refer to FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (3)-2（Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures)
Refer to FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (2)-2（Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures)