Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Strawberry Picking At Tateyama

After visiting the cool mak cik bunga at Minamiboso, we hopped onto the bus to head to the second stop. However, an unexpected trouble occurred. Everyone was already inside the bus but after ten minutes or so, the bus still didn't move. We saw the driver went down and opened one of the compartments behind the bus. Some of us joked that our bus broke down, but we told ourselves that it couldn't be be true.

To find out what's happening, we asked one of the staffs and that was indeed what happened; the bus broke down! Apparently, there was a leak on the radiator and the bus got overheated. Thankfully, the skillful driver managed to fix the problem and we continued our journey to the next stop. The bus wasn't completely fixed properly though, as it made loud sound through the journey and the engine stopped for a few times, prompting more worries to us as we were all looking forward to pluck strawberries at the next stop, which we gladly arrived in one piece haha!

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A signboard indicating that we would reach the strawberry center very soon.

Tateyama city is located at the southern tip of the Boso Peninsular. Tateyama in South Boso with a temperate climate all year round is a "town of sea" and a "town of flowers", blessed with a blue sea and hot springs and complimented by colourful flowers. It is also a "town of sushi" where visitors can enjoy delicious local sushi to the heart's content.

Our trip to Tateyama was to visit one of the strawberries farms of Tateyama Ichigo-gari Center (館山いちご狩りセンター) to enjoy the wonderful experience of strawberries buffet. In Japan, they call this ichigo-gari (イチゴ狩り), which literally translates into "strawberry hunt" haha wtf! Besides ichigo-gari, there's also ringo-gari (apple), nashi-gari (pear), mikan-gari (oranges), sakuranbo-gari (cherry), and many more. But this time, it is strawberry.

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Entering the greenhouse which is covered with clear plastics.

Strawberry cultivation started in Tateyama more than fifty years ago. The mild weather during winter plus the sufficient amount of sunlight, an essential factor for strawberry cultivation this region receives, are among the factors that made the strawberries grown in Tateyama is well-known for its high quality.

In January every year, an annual event is held where the best quality strawberries from Tateyama are picked to be presented to the Emperor. This event first started in 1960 and every year, approximately 2,000 strawberries of 3L size (23-27 grams) are individually hand-picked according to their shapes and colours, packed in boxes before being sent to the Mikasanomiya House (三笠宮家) in Tokyo.

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Rows of strawberries in the greenhouse and we just couldn't wait to feast on them.

Visitors are required to buy the admission ticket at the reception. The entrance fees by the way, are different according to the season. This purchased ticket will act as an exchange ticket to enter the green house and also for a container with some condensed milk. The farms are located around the reception building; some are within walking distance while some are located a further distance away. The staffs there will guide the visitors as to which farm they will be heading to.

We were taken in a van by the farm's staff to the strawberry farm, just about two-minute drive away. Just before we enter the green house, we were given some reminders, such as no running, no hopping over the beds of strawberries, and no strawberry taking-out from the green house. The time limit is thirty minutes and visitors are allowed to pluck and eat as much strawberries as they wish.

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Just look at the adorable strawberries hanging down from their stems.

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Bright red strawberries and it is just to hard to resist to pluck them right away.

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Delicate strawberry flowers, a small wonder that turns into a wonderful delight of strawberries.

Strawberry picking can be enjoyed from early January until early May and the number of visitors who come to enjoy this wonderful experience amounts more than 100,000 people every year.

Although the season for strawberries are generally between May to June, the strawberries grown in cold period grow in a much slower pace, which made them taste much better. Besides just eating them raw, they are also made into the forms of sweets and souvenirs, sold in more than 20 shops around the city, as part of the "Enjoy Tateyama's Strawberries" which began on February 1, 2012.

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This photo might not show the real size of the strawberries clearly, but trust me, they.are.really.huge! The whitish thing on the right, is the condensed milk.

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  Considering the size of my palms, now you can roughly estimate the size of the strawberries here.

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  Everyone were just too busy plucking the strawberries and didn't bother much to take photos haha!

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I didn't count how many strawberries I ate, but all I know is it was a lot lol! (photo credit: Olavo Avalone)

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Miss Kasahara interviewing a couple of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors to get their opinions on what they think about the strawberries there.

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Our thirty-minute time limit was almost over and all of us were asked to finish off whatever we had on our container haha! (photo credit: Olavo Avalone)

When we stepped into the greenhouse, we were quick shocked at the size of the strawberries. They are super huge and measure about eight to ten centimeters long! If you are lucky, it is possible to find strawberries as big as your palm, from a photo shown to us by one of its staff there. Everybody wasted no time and started plucking the strawberries the moment we stepped into the greenhouse. There is nothing more wonderful than to taste them right off the vine. I am not exaggerating but I couldn't believe how tasty the strawberries were. They have a fine balance of sweetness, tartness and characteristic aroma, and the juicy flavor spreading inside your mouth as you bite into the fruit is just too marvelous.

By the way, one thing I am impressed about this place is there is also a special greenhouse for the disabled. The strawberries in this greenhouse are grown on an elevated level and the space in between the rows are wider than the normal ones. Therefore, those on wheelchair can enjoy the same experience as the rest. So, to those strawberries lovers out there, this is one place you wouldn't wanna miss when you pay a visit to Chiba.

 || INFORMATION ||
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. everyday.
Admission: 1,600-1,000 yen (adults, junior high school and above), 1,400-800 yen (children 3-5-year-old), free
(children under 2-year-old); prices for 30-minute eat-all-you-can session, and different according to season, please check the HP for details.
Address: 257-3, Yamamoto, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0014 Japan.
Tel:
0470-22-3466   Fax: 0470-22-3415
Website: http://www.f5.dion.ne.jp/~t-ichigo/Index_PC.htm
Access: Car: 10 minutes from Tomiura IC (富浦IC); Free shuttle bus: 10 minutes from Namegawa Stn. on JR Narita Line.
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The parking area in Banya was already full when we arrived there at noon.

After our trip to the strawberry farm in Tateyama, we headed for lunch at Banya. Located in the middle region facing Tokyo Bay, Hota (保田) in Kyonan town (鋸南町) is one-and-a-half hour train ride from Tokyo station. It is a great place to experience beautiful Japanese countryside and breathtaking ocean, and also able to see Mount Fuji off the distance on a clear day.

We stopped at Banya (ばんや), which is famous for its fresh fish - sashimi, tempura, or grilled, whichever you prefer. The fish caught early in the morning are served on the same day, which is the reason why they are very fresh. The price, quantity and quality of the food here makes it a very popular spot for visitors who are looking for good fresh seafood. For visitors who come in groups, it is advisable that reservation are made earlier to avoid any disappointments.

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Our mouth-watering set lunch for one person, which is damn a lot!

Our lunch was at Banya Yoyaku-senmon-kan (ばんや予約専門館), which has 200 seats. The seats here are only available to those who had made their reservations before coming. There is a wide range of set meals and side dishes served in this restaurant, and the set meals are between the range of 1,570 to 3,150 yen. All of us had the same set - the 1,570 yen one, which has three types of sashimi, simmered seasonal fish, fried fresh carangidae (アジ), vinegar, salad, minced fish ball soup, pickles and rice.

The sashimi was fresh, the fried carangidae was not oily, but crispy and delicious, and the home-made minced fish ball soup smells too good that I doubt anyone had any leftover in their bowls. However, the best dish of the set meal was undoubtedly the seasonal simmered fish. Not very sure what fish it was, but while it was cooked in soy sauce and had a slight sweetness in it, the taste was well-balanced to perfection.

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Miss Kasahara continues her mission by interviewing another Chiba Kun Ambassador during their lunch session (photo credit: Sauleh Kerey).

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Part of the Chiba Kun Ambassador, who was joined by the International Division head, Mr Ishii Kenichi in the far left background (in orange sweater).

The service here was discreet and attentive, and they would watch our progress as we went through our dishes and then cook and serve the next dish accordingly. That is why when the fried carangidae was served, it was still tantalizingly hot and we knew it just came out right from the frying pot. The prices of the food here certainly very reasonable, considering the quality and quantity of the food served.

We had some time to spare after our lunch and we took a short stroll around the area. Besides being a popular stop for meals, this place also offers accommodation and public bath facilities for visitors. There are also shops selling local sea products and souvenirs at bargain prices.

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Dried fish and dried squids. This scene reminds me very much of my hometown.

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Not very sure what kind of fish is this, but they look very similar to sardines.

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As for this one, I don't know. Nemo maybe? Haha!

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A notice to visitors that unrelated individuals are prohibited from entering the jetty.

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Magnificent blue sea facing the Tokyo Bay. By the way, that 80-ton huge white crane in the background was completed in February 2011.

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Kei from China, a fellow Chiba Kun Ambassador posing for a photo before we left the place.

 || INFORMATION ||
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (last order at 8:30 p.m.)
Closed: Tuesdays (operates on public holidays)

Address: 99-5, Kichihama, Kyonan-machi, Awa-gun, Chiba Prefecture, 299-1908 Japan.
Tel:
0470-50-1226 
Website: http://www.awa.or.jp/home/hota-gk/banya_yoyakusenmonkan/banya_yoyakusenmonkan.html
Access: Car: 5 minutes from Kyonan-hota IC (鋸南保田IC); Train: 15 minutes walk from
Hota Station (保田駅) on JR Uchibo Line (JR内房線); Free shuttle bus: 10 minutes from Hota Station (保田駅) on JR Uchibo Line (JR内房線).

~ to be continued ~

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