|Where Japan's Tea Grows
Shizuoka Prefecture on Honshu Island
|A few hours east of Uji and an hour south of Tokyo, in the shadows of Mount
Fuji, Japan's tallest peak, lies Shizuoka prefecture, Japan's largest tea growing
region. The Akaishi Mountains which form the southernmost range of the Japan-
ese Alps ends in western Shizuoka prefecture.
|With high elevations, rolling
foothills, an abundance of
rivers and cool mountain breezes, it provides
the perfect climate for abundant tea growth.
Over 50% of Japan's tea is grown in this
In the central region of Shizuoka prefecture
lies Shizuoka City. Suruga Bay protects this
area with a mild climate and frequent coastal
fog that provides abundant moisture, sup-
porting up to four tea harvests per year.
Sencha is the primary tea produced in this
region. Fukamushi Ichiban Senchas are
some of the most prized teas grown here, as
they are made from the very first leaves
|plucked during the beginning days of the First Sencha Harvest, comparable to China's Qing
Ming Festival, and India's First Flush Darjeelings. Ichiban
means "the first," referring to tea that was produced from the
first most tender leaves plucked during the beginning days of
the tea harvest in early May.
Ichiban senchas are some of the finest, most exquisite teas
because they contain a concentration of compounds stored over
the winter and released into the first new buds and leaves.
Also nearby, in the shadow of Mount Fuji,
lies Kakegawa, a small wedge of fertile land
on the coastal hills south of Shizuoka City.
Kakegawa has the most sophisticated tea
operations in the world. Huge metal fans
are out-fitted on the hills overlooking the
tea, protecting it from frost (the fans pre-
vent cold air from settling down low near
the plants which could kill the tender young
leaves and buds).
Tea factories are located every few miles
throughout the entire region, ready to pro-
cess the harvest on a moments notice.
It was Kakegawa tea makers that first in-
vented the fukamushi method of deep steaming after WWII.
Their goal was to improve the quality of mass produced tea made from larger, tougher,
less desirable and lesser quality tea leaves. Even though the fukamushi method of
deep steaming only lasts 30 seconds longer than stan-
dard, traditonal steaming, it breaks the leaves up into
much smaller, thinner filaments which brew quicker and
impart a stronger flavor.
The Japanese have come to enjoy the flavor of Fukamushi
sencha so much that nearly all sencha is now deep
steamed in Japan. Ichiban senchas have become so pop-
ular in Japan that they are now mass produced, some-
times with less quality.
They have become so popular, in fact, that the demand has be-
gun to exceed the supply, forcing Japan to outsource manufactur-
ing and import Chinese made senchas. These are most often ex-
tremely inferior quality, though, due to inferior soil and inexperi-
ence producing this type and style of tea.
Tea was first produced in Shizuoka during Japan's Kamakura
period (1185-1333). Sencha is the main tea produced in Shizuoka
prefecture and today over 40% of Japan's sencha production
comes from this region.
Shizuoka prefecture is also the second most famous producer of top quality gyokuro, as
well as producing bancha which is also grown in Uji and Kyushu. Enjoy.
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