Producers bet their lives on their crops here in the verdant hilly and mountainous area of Fukushima Prefecture
“We get a lot of snow around here in the winter--about two meters of accumulation,” Hoshi explains. “All of that snowmelt seeps into the mountainside, collects minerals, and the clear spring water nourishes the rice.” Sure enough, the Tateiwa River flows right alongside his fields, and the water in the little streams flowing everywhere is so clear you can see straight through to the bottom. It’s as if the pure white grains of the Satoyama-no-Tsubu rice are reflecting the beauty and purity of the water. But that’s not the only reason Hoshi’s rice is so delicious. “The clean air is another major factor,” he adds. “There are places near the rice paddies where you can see a sea of clouds stretch out below. That’s how high up we are here. The sunshine is strong in the daytime, but the mornings and nights are really cold. The more the temperature changes suddenly, the more the rice tends to store up starch, giving it a sweeter flavor.”
One of the reasons Hoshi took on such an enormous task was because he thought it would be a great opportunity to promote his local region. The Tateiwa district where he grows Satoyama-no-Tsubu rice has always been a well-known buckwheat-producing area as well. Other specialty products include the sought-after Akakabu radishes and Nango tomatoes, the latter of which have earned nationwide recognition. Those who know their produce know Tateiwa as the home of exceptional brand-name crops.
We ended by asking Hoshi to talk about the concept of Fukushima Pride and what it meant to him personally. “The small farms scattered across this mountain valley are protected through the combined effort of all of these local producers,” he said. “More than anything else, our pride stems from being able to continue farming in this beautiful natural environment.” It was as if you could feel his love for the area pouring from every word. His gentle, hardworking manner is one that somehow feels familiar, as it is a character trait shared among all of the producers of Fukushima.
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