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Daio Wasabi Farm (大王わさび農場) in Azumino City – A Day Trip From Matsumoto
A wasabi farm? What? Why of all places are we talking about visiting a wasabi farm? Well for starters, visiting Daio Wasabi Farm was one of the highlights of our time traveling Japan. Second, this is truly a unique educational experience unlike any other AND it’s loads of fun.
Why visit Daio Wasabi Farm? Well, if you’re a big fan of wasabi, are interested in farming or agriculture, want to see what wasabi looks like and is processed, or really… ANY reason. Even if you don’t like wasabi this is still a must-do day trip from Matsumoto.
Okay okay, before I keep rambling on, let’s go ahead and see what this quirky place is all about.
What is Daio Wasabi Farm?
Daio Wasabi Farm is a running, picturesque wasabi farm that started in 1915 where you can see the growing process of wasabi, enjoy lunch at a small cafe, and buy wasabi related souvenirs. It is one of the largest wasabi farms in Japan producing around 10% of Japan’s wasabi crops and covering approximately 15 hectares.
Where is Daio Wasabi Farm Located?
Daio Wasabi Farm is located in the small, rural Azumino City in the Nagano Prefecture which is about 30 minutes away by car or train from the city of Matsumoto making it the perfect day trip from Matsumoto!
How to Get to Daio Wasabi Farm
TRAVELING BY CAR TO AZUMINO CITY
If you happen to be traveling Japan by car you can easily drive to Daio Wasabi Farm from Matsumoto which is about 25 minutes. Once you arrive at the farm there is free parking available to the right of the main building.
TRAVELING BY TRAIN TO AZUMINO CITY
Although we drove a lot of our time in Japan, we actually took the train to Hotaka Station so we could ride bikes around the town (more on this in a moment).
From Matsumoto, we took the JR Oita Line from Matsumoto Station to Hotaka Station (about 25 minutes, ¥330 one-way). From Hotaka Station, you can take a taxi (about a 10-minute drive) or rent a bike from Shinano (しなの庵), a small bike shop across the street from the station.
If the weather is nice I HIGHLY recommend renting an electric bicycle, it’s not much more than a regular bicycle but is a neat experience. Don’t worry, it’s not like a motorbike, it simply just makes it easier to pedal and switch gears.
The paths to get to Daio Wasabi Farm are paved country roads so there is minimal traffic and it’s extremely beautiful, especially on a clear, sunny day! Plus there are a number of routes you can take (provided by Shinano Bike Shop) that take you by shrines, temples, museums, and/or even a Swiss village.
TRAVELING ON FOOT/WALKING
Another option to get to Daio Wasabi Farm is by walking. We didn’t time it out but I believe it would be about a 30-minute walk based on the routes on Google Maps. Again, most of the area is paved and there are some sidewalks but if it’s possible, I’d still recommend riding a bike!
Shinano Bicycle Rental Information
|Usage Time||Ordinary Bicycles||Electric Bicycles|
|1 hour||200 yen||300 yen|
|2 hours||400 yen||600 yen|
|3 hours||600 yen||900 yen|
|4 hours||800 yen||1,200 yen|
|5 hours||1,000 yen||1,500 yen|
|6 hours||1,200 yen||1,800 yen|
|7 hours||1,400 yen||2,000 yen|
|1 day (24 hours)||2,800 yen||3,600 yen|
Shinano Bike Shop Hours: 8am-6pm
Interesting Fun Facts About Wasabi
Before I start telling you about the wasabi farm itself, I have to give you some interesting facts about wasabi – most I didn’t know before I visited!
- Wasabi is incredibly hard to grow. It cannot handle direct sunlight with temperatures between 46 and 70 degrees and has to have clear, freshwater flowing through at all times.
- What you typically eat isn’t real wasabi. Because it’s so hard to grow, the cost of wasabi is extremely expensive. Most of the wasabi you purchase in a supermarket contains horseradish, mustard powder, and maybe a hint of real wasabi. But unless the first ingredient is wasabi or wasabi japonica it isn’t pure wasabi. I was surprised at how different wasabi tasted in Japan – so even if you don’t think you like wasabi, give it another try!
- Wasabi has TONS of health benefits. There have been many studies showing that wasabi has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties due to a naturally occurring chemical called allyl isothiocyanate. It also has calcium, vitamin C, and potassium. There are a number of other illnesses that it’s thought to alleviate symptoms for such as allergies, inflammation, and even some cancers. Basically wasabi is a nutritional workhorse!
- Wasabi is an herb. Most people think that wasabi is a type of horseradish but it’s actually it’s own unique plant – it is also referred to as a type of cabbage. But our friends at Daio Wasabi Farm said herb so that’s what I’m rolling with. 😉
- The flavor of wasabi disappears quickly. If you are eating fresh wasabi it is typically freshly grated as well. This is because the flavor of fresh wasabi is usually gone within 15 minutes! However, the actual stem of wasabi can last for months and be grated again and again.
- Every part of the wasabi plant is edible. While we mostly eat the wasabi stem when grated for sushi, soba, or meats, the leaves of wasabi can be pickled, cooked, or chopped and added to any dish you desire.
Experiencing Daio Wasabi Farm
Okay now on to the good stuff! After we rented our bikes from Shinano we took a scenic bike ride through the rural roads of Hokata. There are a few places we could have stopped along the way (provided by the map we received by Shinano) but we decided to save them for the bike ride back!
We arrived at the farm and parked our bikes in the free bike parking area close to where the cars are parked.
The first place we visited at Daio Wasabi Farm was the museum. Here you can learn the history of the farm and watch videos about the harvest of wasabi, its benefits, and uses. A lot of the museum is only in Japanese, but even if you cannot read Japanese you can infer what each artifact is for.
Trying Wasabi Ice Cream
After, we went to the outdoor cafe area where we ordered… WASABI ICE CREAM. Now I know what you might be thinking… wasabi doesn’t belong in ice cream. But now… it works. It really does.
When we first tried it I thought it was going to have a kick, but the wasabi flavor was mellow, swirled into the sweet vanilla cone. Somehow, it was surprisingly delicious and I’d go for another in a heartbeat.
READ MORE: A Sweet Guide to Ice Cream in Japan
The Wasabi Farm Area
After that sweet treat, we decided to explore the farm. The first thing you’ll notice is that the farm is well-kept and highly developed for tourists with walking paths, bridges, water features, a small shrine, and even watermills.
On the farm we were able to see how the wasabi is grown – and let me tell you it’s no easy feat! As I said before, it’s one of the hardest plants to grow with a constant need for the right temperatures. On the farm grounds, there are multiple large fields that are meticulously taken care of by those that work for Daio Wasabi Farm.
Each of these fields has a continuous flow of crystal clear water from the Northern Alps. Without these freshwater streams, the wasabi wouldn’t be able to thrive! Once planted, each wasabi plant takes about two years to grow – so basically I’m never taking fresh wasabi for granted again.
While we were there in early August we noticed that the plants and fields were covered by black tarps. When we asked, we found out that it was to help protect the plants from the sweltering heat of summer. Clever right?
The Gift Shop
Then we visited a souvenir shop! Inside this shop, there are tons of wasabi related gift items including wasabi snacks, wasabi beer, and fresh wasabi. If we were planning to leave Japan sooner I would have been tempted to bring some fresh wasabi back to the States, sigh… maybe next time.
Before you leave you can visit the cafe again where you can enjoy local specialties like wasabi soba (buckwheat noodles) or wasabi tempura. I highly recommend tasting the freshly grated wasabi with one of these entrees in order to get the full experience.
Daio Wasabi Farm Information
ADDRESS: 3640 Hotaka, Azumino City, Nagano Prefecture 399-8303
HOURS: March – October 9:00am-5:20pm, November – February 9:00am-4:30pm
COST: Free to visit
Other Things to do in Azumino City
There are a number of other things to do in Azumino City before making your way back to Matsumoto. On our bike ride, we stopped by a few small shrines and enjoyed a bike trail by a scenic riverway and forest. Here’s just a few more ideas of places to visit.
Hotaka Shrine (穂高神社)
Hotaka Shrine is located close to Hotaka Station making it the perfect place to visit as your first or last stop in Azumino City. It has many gorgeous features including the wooden torii gate towards the entrance and has a lot of information about the city too.
Tokoji Temple (東光寺)
Tokoji Temple is also located close to Hotaka Station, Tokoji Temple is a very unique temple to visit in Japan. It has the main elements of most temples with historic gates and architecture, but also a few modern elements too like large wooden geta (sandals) that you can take photos with.
Manganji Temple (満願寺)
Manganji Temple is tucked away in a scenic location that requires a short hike to get there. There are numerous Buddhist paintings on the walls of this temple, a large bronze bell that you can ring to send a wish to the gods, and a beautiful garden and brook.
Alps Azumino National Government Park (国営アルプスあづみの公園)
Alps Azumino National Government Park is a beautiful park where you can see seasonal flowers, foliage, cherry blossom trees, and a stunning view of the white-capped Mount Jonen in the background.
There are also a number of activities you can enjoy in the park too like frisbee golf, hiking trails, soba making classes, craft activities for kids, and outdoor trampolines.
Cost: ¥400/adults, ¥80/children
Hours: March 1-June 30 and September 1-October 31: 9:30am-5pm, July 1-August 31: 9:30am−6pm, November 1-February 28: 9:30am−4pm, closed Mondays
Rokuzan Art Museum (碌山美術館)
Rokuzan Art Museum is a scenic art museum that is located in the heart of Hotaka. It displays the works of Japanese sculptor, Rokuzan Ogiwara. But in addition to the beautiful works inside, the outside is something to marvel at as well. Built to resemble a church, in honor of Rokuzan’s Christian faith, the brick exterior and stained glass windows are very beautiful.
Cost: ¥700/adults, ¥300/high schoolers, ¥150/elementary and junior high
Hours: March to October 9am–5:10pm, November to February 9am–4:10pm, closed Mondays.
Azumino Winery (安曇野ワイナリー)
Azumino Winery is a small, scenic winery that overlooks the Northern Alps. At the winery, you can enjoy free tastings or purchase bottles of wine to be enjoyed in the cafe or outside on the terrace overlooking the vineyard. They also offer tours through the growing, brewing, and bottling process of their wines. Don’t forget to take a bottle with you to take home in your suitcase!
Hours: 10:30am-4pm, Thursday-Monday. Closed Tuesday & Wednesday.
Azumino Swiss Village (安曇野スイス村)
Azumino Swiss Village is a small village area that has buildings that resemble Swiss architecture and a number of different attractions including horseback riding, a winery, and TONS of edible souvenirs. There is also rice paddy art to view seasonally!
Hours: 8:30am-6pm daily
Where Can I Buy Real Wasabi?
You can buy real wasabi at Daio Wasabi Farm to take with you! But make sure you check with customs should you think about bringing it back to your home country.
If you are looking to purchase real wasabi in the United States you can at The Wasabi Store. They have a number of different wasabi products including wasabi root, plants, powders, and salts.
We hope this post has inspired you to visit Azumino City and Daio Wasabi Farm! Now we’re off to make some soba noodles with a side of wasabi. 😉