The mid-summer rice fields are thick and lush, in Matsumoto and all across Japan. From the Yamabe area east of town to the wide open Fukashi plains that stretch west to the northern Alps, the annual planting and growing of rice seems almost a ritual of marking off the seasons of the year.
And as with many parts of Japan, the farmland surrounding Matsumoto can look awash in a soft green sea of rice, reaching all the way to the mountainsides, with room for little else.
But this land is rich with much more than rice. Get away from downtown and you’ll see.
Shiojiri, just south of Matsumoto, may be the better-known producer of grapes, but the first vines planted there came from the Yamabe area of Matsumoto. There are plenty of grapes growing in the flatter fields closer to town, but peer up the valley and you can see the grape fields creeping up the slopes.
This region where Matsumoto sits is known to many Japanese as Shinshu. Mention the name Shinshu and many of them will immediately think of soba. You’ll have to grab a bicycle and go for a ride if you want to see the soba fields up close, but you can find plenty of soba noodles downtown!
In the fall the land turns red with apples, particularly north of town in the Okada area and out to the west in Yamagata-mura. Aomori Prefecture way up in the north of Japan may be the country’s leading producer, but we think the apples grown right here are the best you’ll find. If you are up in Okada or out in Yamagata keep an eye out for a chance to snag some fresh-picked apples right there on the farm.
More For Your Plate
Cycling around the outskirts of Matsumoto I’ve come across vast fields of negi, the long green onion that gives so many Japanese dishes a bit of extra flavor.
In recent years I’ve seen more and more corn being grown here in Matsumoto.
Even right here in Yamabe.
For the past few years one guy up the road from me has been growing sunflowers.
And everywhere people have their own gardens and fields, growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables for themselves and, in some cases, for the people of the neighborhood to grab on the cheap.
And then there are those who prefer to grow flowers.
And From Beyond the Fields
Shinshu, by the way, is a name people have come to associate with another product of the area. It’s not a fruit or a vegetable, or even a noodle. Here in landlocked Matsumoto farms have been established for growing Shinshu salmon, a cross breed of brown and rainbow trout that serves to round out the full menu of offerings that the land here brings forth every year.
Get Out There!
To escape downtown and see Matsumoto’s varied farms and fields for yourself, there’s no better way to go than by bicycle. There are yellow Hello Cycle bicycles all over town for rent, but to be brutally honest finding a job, saving up some money and buying a bicycle would take less time than figuring out how the Hello Cycle system works.
Lucky for all of us, there’s an easy alternative: take a cycling tour around town, where everything is taken care of and you’ll have someone who can show you the best of everything the land around Matsumoto has to offer.