Minami-Boso Area

Miya Shoyu Factory 「宮醤油店」

Miya Shoyu 「宮醤油」 was founded in 1834 and makes premium grade, naturally brewed soy sauce. As with modernisation, most soy sauce these days are mass-produced and are not naturally brewed but Miya Shoyu is one of the few remaining factories in Japan which still uses the traditional brewing methods, thus it is considered to be a cultural heritage in Japan.

Today, Chiba Prefecture remains Japan’s most important production centre for soy sauce and Miya Shoyu is the only maker in Chiba that follows the old brewing process. Its soy sauce is sold under the trade name, Tamasa.

We had the opportunity to meet Keiichiro Miya (官敬一郎), who is the Managing Director and also the 7th generation owner of this family business.

Soy sauce, or shoyu 「醤油」 in the Japanese language, is considered one of Japan’s most indispensable and versatile seasonings and is used at the dining table as well as in cooking and food preparation. The term shoyu actually encompasses five different types of soy sauce, each of which is differentiated by flavour: koikuchi-shoyu (dark brown color with a rich flavour, half wheat and half soybeans), usukuchi-shoyu (lighter color and taste), tamari-shoyu (higher concentration of soybean with no wheat addition), saishikomi-shoyu (rebrewed soy sauce, i.e. instead of using salt, they using soy sauce as an ingredient) and shiro-shoyu (mostly made from wheat, with some soybeans).

Over 80 percent of all soy sauce consumed in Japan is koikuchi, thus this particular type is commonly referred to as shoyu 「醤油」.

How is soy sauce made?

The main ingredients of soy sauce are soybeans, wheat, salt and microbes. The soy sauce production process begins with the making of koji, a dry mash. Soybeans, wheat and salt are first added to water, then mixed with brine and a fermenting agent (a koji mold cultivated on soybeans and wheat). The resulting mash, known as moromi, is left to ferment for approximately six months, after which it is squeezed through a cloth to obtain as much of the liquid as possible. This liquid is nama-shoyu, which is raw unpasteurized soy sauce and once it is heated to kill the bacteria, the final result is soy sauce and the production process is complete.

Miya-san took us on a tour of the factory and one of the interesting stops was this room where we could see the moromi being fermented using traditional methods. This batch of moromi was made in March.

 

The round discs that sit on the moromi have straws attached to them and as bubbles raise to the surface with the fermentation process, these straws will help to disperse the bubbles. In the past, bamboo sticks were used to stir the moromi and it was rather labour-intensive and taxing on one’s muscles, thus they started using these discs instead.

Modern technology uses temperature control but here at Miya Shoyu, as traditional methods are used, moromi is typically made in the winter when the weather is cold, and this is timed so that fermentation will take place in summer when it’s warm, then temperatures will cool again in autumn towards the end of the production phase and the entire process takes about one year to complete!

How often is the moromi stirred?

It is dependent on the season as two different types of bacteria (lactic acid and yeast) are needed to make soy sauce. During the cold season, more stirring is required as lactic acid requires more oxygen. However, we were told that stirring cannot be done during the summer due to the chemical reactions on the yeast. Temperature control is basically an important factor in the soy sauce production process!

  

After moromi has aged, it is stuffed in a cotton bag and squeezed to obtain the liquid.


This press helps to extract the soy sauce and we were told that the dregs leftover after squeezing are sent off to be used as horse feed!


Wandering around the compound, we saw several vats which store the soy sauce.

Through the efforts of Miya Shoyu’s six workers, about 200,000 1.8-litre bottles of soy sauce are produced annually and these are being sold nationwide as there is a high demand from heath-conscious people who prefer traditionally made soy sauce.

Built in 1892, Miya Shoyuten is the home and shop of the head of the Tamasa-brand of soy sauce makers. This building was hand-made by traditional carpenters using prime hardwoods and it stands beside the firm’s factory which was built in 1871.


The shop’s walls are decorated with awards and autographs from celebrities who have visited.

  


There are just too many types of soy sauces available and you’ll be spoilt for choice!!


Thanks for the tour, Miya-san!


Address:
Miya Shoyu Factory 「宮醤油店」
〒 293-0058
Chiba Futtsu Sanuki 247
千葉県富津市佐貫247番地

Phone:
0120-383-861 (toll-free)
0439-66-0003

Opening Hours:
Please contact Miya Shoyu for their up-to-date hours of operation but as a rough guide, these are their operating hours:
Monday-Friday 8:30 to 18:00
Closed on Saturday, Sunday and New Year holidays.

Getting There by train:
JR東日本 内房線 「佐貫町」駅より、正面に伸びる道(国道465号線)を鹿野山方面へ向かって徒歩10分ほどです。
JR East Uchibo line, Sanukimachi 「佐貫町」 station. It is about a 10-minute walk from the station towards the direction of Kanozan road which extends in front of the National Highway Route 465.

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」 in Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture

Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」 is an oasis away from the concrete jungle and is a place where both the young and old can visit to get closer to nature. It’s a good place for city dwellers to escape to and have a personal encounter with a variety of farm animals, enjoy seasonal flowers, fruit picking and other interesting hands-on experiences. In addition, the air is cool and fresh as the farm is located 300m above sea level.

About 800,000-900,000 people visit Mother Farm annually due to its close proximity to Tokyo and both Narita and Haneda Airports. It is one of the top 3 theme parks in Chiba Prefecture and occupies a land area 4 times bigger than Tokyo Disneyland.

Yamanoue Gate 「山の上ゲート」

Origin of Mother Farm’s name
The Mother Farm was founded in 1962 by Mr. Hisakichi Maeda who started Sankei Shinbun Daily Newspaper and Tokyo Tower.
His parents lives in suburbs of Osaka and were so poor that his mother often said, “if we had just one more cow, our life would be so much more easier.”
Her words had always remained on his mind and he felt that the stock-raising industry would be necessary in the future lives of the Japanese.

Guide Map:

There are many attractions at the farm and it would definitely be a busy day if you attempt to cover everything in the same day! The most popular activity at the moment is meeting the alpacas and having pictures taken with them.

Daily attractions featuring animals include the following:
Agrodome Show “Sheep Show” – a funny sheep show from New Zealand with a sheep shearing demonstration
This show is somewhat similar to the shows that I’ve seen in New Zealand and it’s always amazing to see how fast it takes for a sheep to be sheared. The audience can go on stage for picture-taking with the sheep after the show.

 
 

Agrodome Show “The Sheepdog and His Friends” – a show featuring sheep, sheep dogs, llamas and ostriches

Duck’s Parade
 

Sheep’s Grand Parade (no parade during July & August) – herding 150 sheep along the path

Piggy Race – Children and piglets running together

Rabbit and Guinea Pig Hugging – pet and cuddle cute rabbits and guinea pigs

Milking Experience – try your hand at milking the cows

Horse riding is also available at separate charges.

Another highlight is the Mother Farm Tour (Adult ¥1200, Child ¥700) where you ride on the tractor train for a tour of Makiba Farm. The rides last about 35 mins and you’ll get to feed the lambs, sheep and alpacas along the tour route. There is a viewing point along the tour route where on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji and the entire Tokyo Bay.
  

The fields on the mountain are covered with many seasonal flowers which you can enjoy viewing during your visit. Some of flowers are:
• Narcissus 「水仙」 (Late Dec-Feb)
• Wintersweet 「ロウバイ」 (Mid Jan-Mid Feb)
• Poppy 「ポピ」 (Feb-Early May)
• Plum 「梅」 (Mar)

• Rape flowers 「菜の花」 (Mid Feb-Mid Apr) – Rapeseed oil is made from these flowers and the farm boasts to have Kanto’s largest field of rape flowers.

• Cherry Blossoms 「桜」 (Mid Mar-Mid Apr)

• Hydrangea 「あじさい」 (June-July)
• Kochia 「コキア」(別名:ほうき草) (Late July-Nov) – this is also known as fireweed, burning bush or summer cypress and has been used for making brooms

• Salvia 「サルビア」 (Aug – Early Oct)

• Cosmos 「コスモス」 (Sept-Oct)

Flower picking is available for a fee and you can pick rape flowers and poppies depending on the season.

Fruit and vegetable picking is also a seasonal activity and you can pick blueberries (Late July-Aug), strawberries (Mid Jan – Late May), sweet potato (Mid Sept-Early Nov), kiwi fruit (Nov) and cherry tomatoes (Dec-Late May). They limit the number of people daily to avoid over-harvesting. Check the latest schedules for more details and pricing.
  

A number of interesting Hands-On Experiences are available and they include:
• Butter making

• Making blueberry or strawberry jam (seasonal)
• Cheese making
• Making sheep figurine and other handicrafts
• Pottery painting
• Ice cream making
Do note that prior reservations are required for the above activities.


Those who want a bit more excitement can head over to the Waku Waku Land & Amusement Park 「わくわくランド」, where they can try bungy jumping and go-carting.

A 30m tall ferris wheel and a card maze (Gururi Forest Adventure) are also in this area.

There are fireworks displays on certain nights in Summer (Aug/Sept) and the ferris wheel will be also lighted up, thus creating a romantic atmosphere.

This year will be the first time that they are having “Winter Illumination” where the farm is lighted up in the evenings from 22nd Nov 2012 (Thu) – 6th Jan 2013 (Sun) daily, and 12th Jan 2013 (Sat) – 24th Feb 2013 (Sun) on weekends and holidays and also Valentine’s Day 14th Feb (Wed).

There is a camping ground (only available in summer) and cottages fully equipped with shower and kitchen facilities which are available for rent.

During my visit, there was a festival that weekend and some booths were setup which featured local produce and foodstuffs from both Kimitsu City 「君津市」 and Futtsu City 「富津市」.

There were also several mascots wandering around and they seemed to be extremely popular with the crowd, so I decided to check them out…

Kimipyonn 「きみぴょん」 is Kimitsu City’s mascot 「君津市キャラクター」 and was created based on one of their local flowers.

  

Futtsun 「ふっつん」 is Futtsu City’s mascot 「富津市おもてなしキャラクター」.

I only managed to get my picture taken with Mammomama 「マーモママ」, one of Mother Farm’s mascots.


FOOD

A popular dining option at Mother Farm is the Genghis Khan barbecue 「ジンギスカン」 where food is cooked on a grill at your table. Some of the items available on the menu are ribeye steaks, homemade sausages, seafood, wagyu beef, lamb and pork.

There are 3 restaurants at which you can enjoy this Genghis Khan barbecue meal. I dined at the “Barbecue Terrace” 「バーベキューテラス」 and had the Lamb (from New Zealand) and Pork set which comes with vegetables and it was really good! The ingredients were fresh and the homemade dipping sauce was tasty! Lovely scenery can be admired whilst dining and coupled with the cool mountain air, this barbecue was certainly a refreshing experience for me.

  

Serving size for 5 persons:

This is the grill which you use to cook your food on.
  

It was a satisfying meal (and yes, you’ll need to wear a bib)!! ^_^

There is a nice view from the Barbecue Terrace…
    


More eating places…


One of the best-selling items at the farm is their Soft Serve Ice Cream 「フトクリーム」 (¥300) which is made from fresh milk! Besides the original milk flavour, it also comes in flavours like strawberry, blueberry and chocolate, depending on seasonal availability.

Both Blueberry and Milk flavours were available when I was there and I wanted to try both so I got the best of both worlds and ordered “Mix” 「ミックス」 which was a combination of both flavours. The ice cream was rich and creamy and was absolutely delicious!!

Another highly recommended dish is the “Makiba Milk Ramen” 「まきばのミルクラーメン」. I didn’t manage to try it so it’s on my must-eat list for my next visit!


SHOPPING

There are many souvenirs available at the gift shops and some of the items on sale include home-made ham & sausages, wines, cheesecake, yoghurt, ice cream, Mother Farm Milk & Jersey Milk (limited quantities produced), jams and milk candy.

    

Here’s a look at some of the other souvenir items available at the gift shop.
   

I bought some interesting milk candy which came in different flavours and looked like sticks of chewing gum but the texture was firmer.

The strawberry and cheese versions were a little chewy.
  

On the other hand, the milk candy was a bit crunchy and tasted like fresh milk but in sort of a crunchy milk powder form. It’s hard to try to imagine the texture and you’ll just have to try it for yourself! LOL…

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the farm and they even have special commemorative goods on sale in their souvenir shops.

Ink Stamp collectors will be pleased to know that there are stamps available at the information centres within the farm. I obtained these two from the Yamanoue Information Centre:
   

Verdict:  Overall, it’s a nice place for a day out with the family where you can enjoy good food and lots of interesting activities.


Address:
Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」
940-3, Tagura, Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture 299-1601
Tel: +81-439-37-3211

Opening Hours:
Feb to Nov 09:00 – 17:00 (Weekdays 09:30 – 16:30)
Dec to Jan 09:30 – 16:00 (Weekdays 10:00 – 16:00)
Hours may be extended depending on the season, especially during the holiday season. Check their website for the latest schedules and the specific dates when they are closed.

Admission Fee:
Individual – Adults ¥1500, Child ¥800
Group (20 & above) – Adults ¥1100, Child ¥600
Kids – 3 years old & below enter free.

Access:
JR Uchibo Line: Tokyo Station 「東京駅」 → Kimitsu Station 「君津駅」
Aqua-Line Nonstop Bus is available from the following stations to Kimitsu Station:
• Tokyo Station, Yaesu Exit
• Shinjuku Station West Exit
• Shinagawa Station East Exit
• Haneda Airport No. 12
• Kawasaki Station East Exit No. 34
• Yokohama Station East Exit No. 18

Bus (6 round trips on weekdays, 9 round trips on weekends and holidays) from Sanukimachi Station. Contact the farm for the latest detailed schedule on the hours of operation.

Free Shuttle Bus (1 round trip per day) from Kimitsu Station on JR Uchibo Line (※Reservations are required: +81-439-37-3211):
JR Kimitsu Station (South Exit) 10:40 → Mother Farm 11:20
Mother Farm 15:30 → JR Kimitsu Station 16:10

There is also a Non-Stop Bus (1 round trip on weekends and holidays from March to November) from Kisarazu Station (contact the farm for the latest detailed schedule):
JR Kisarazu Station (East Exit) 09:50 → Mother Farm 10:30
Mother Farm 15:20 → JR Kisarazu Station 16:00

Email: info@motherfarm.co.jp

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , | 41 Comments

Delicious Aburi Kaisen Don at Tateyama 「館山炙り海鮮丼」

Aburi Kaisen Don 「炙り海鮮丼」 literally translates to “broiled seafood bowl” but Tateyama City has a special version of this dish that comprises of a huge “bowl” which is divided into 3 levels containing different types of food, some raw, some cooked and some which you need to grill at the table.

This unique dish is only available at 5 restaurants in Tateyama but do note that there are only a limited number of sets available daily so if you want to try this, you’ll need to arrive early at the restaurant or make prior reservations (if possible).

More details can be found at the following website => http://www.aburikaisen.com/shops/index.html (in Japanese only)

I dined at Umi no Hana 「海の花」, whose name literally translates to “flower of the sea” and it offers fresh and delicious seafood from the surrounding area.

This was displayed on the wall of the restaurant. (click on the photo below for a closer look at the poster)

Only 25 sets of the Tateyama Aburi Kaisen Don 「館山炙り海鮮丼」 are served at this restaurant daily. It’s a real bargain at ¥1500 (inclusive of tax) and reservations can be made in advance.

Now onto my dining experience….the food was served on a tray and initially I didn’t know that there were 2 other compartments of food stacked below the one with the skewers and the turban shell!! (cos at that point of time I didn’t know what the Tateyama Aburi Kaisen Don was all about)

After unstacking the three parts of the “bowl”, the pictures below show the total serving size for ONE person! (^o^)

Here’s another look…

Top-most Layer: This contained 4 types of seafood to be grilled 「炙って」, which included Medai (メダイ Japanese Butterfish), Takame (??), Koika (小イカ Cuttlefish) and Sazae (栄螺 Horned Turban Shell). I’m not really familiar with all the Japanese names of the fish – anyway, as long as it’s edible, it doesn’t matter to me. LOL…

The turban shell came with its own grill. This was the first time that I was eating one of this size! The edible parts were already sliced into bite-sized pieces which made it really convenient to eat. Most people just eat the outermost part which is chewy. There is another edible part deep inside the shell which are the innards and is an acquired taste as it is a little bitter.

There was a separate grill for the skewers and you really need to be careful with these as they may catch fire! I started to panic when one of my skewers went up in flames but managed to put it out quickly. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one who experienced this embarrassment!


Second Layer: This comprised of four types of Sashimi 「刺身」 – Aji (鯵 Horse Mackerel), Tako (蛸, たこ Octopus), Kanpachi (間八 Greater Amberjack) and Sazai (??). It was very fresh and was really good!! 美味しいですね!


Third Level: Flower Sushi 「花ちらし寿司」 – the sushi was tasty but it was a bit too much for me. Still I managed to finish everything except for the centre of the “flower”.


After the meal, all ladies were served with a complimentary dessert of yuzu jelly! Some of the men were asking why they didn’t get it? LOL…guys, this is a special privilege reserved only for the womenfolk! :p


VERDICT:  It’s a value-for-money set which is absolutely delicious!! A MUST TRY!!! ^_^


おしゃれ鮨 海の花 (Umi no Hana)
Address: 1F Malaga Mall, Hojo, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Telephone: 0470-25-5151
Access: 1 min walk from the West exit of JR Tateyama station
(it’s No. 9 on this dining map of Tateyama City <= click)

Opening Hours:
Weekdays (Mon-Wed, Fri)
Lunch 11:15~15:00 (last order 14:30)
Dinner 17:00~22:00 (last order 21:30)
Sat, Sun & Public Holiday 11:00~22:00 (last order 21:30)
Closed on Thursday (unless it is a public holiday).

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hotel Migrant at Tateyama 「ホテルマイグラント」

Located just a 2min walk from the JR Tateyama station, Hotel Migrant 「ホテルマイグラント」 is a convenient place to crash for the night if you are planning a visit to Tateyama 「館山」 in Chiba Prefecture 「千葉県」.

It’s a relatively small hotel with a convenience store next door and there’s a even special entrance connecting the hotel lobby to the convenience store!

Rooms have basic amenities and this hotel is suitable for those who are more interested in seeing the sights and just want a nice comfortable clean place to spend the night. For those who need their online fix, free Wifi connection is only available at the hotel lobby.

I stayed in a single room and here’s how it looks…


Picture taken from the lift lobby on the 3rd floor.


Breakfast (¥500) is served along a narrow passageway just across from the hotel reception. Just hand your breakfast coupon to the motherly lady who will greet you and ask if you want juusu or miruku (i.e. juice or milk)?

   

The breakfast was a simple toast and salad and the lady manning the breakfast counter had assumed that I wanted coffee (I wasn’t asked!) as she served that to me although the sign (in Japanese) at the counter says you have a choice of coffee or tea. I had this changed to tea after I snapped this picture and noticed the sign.

If you need something more fulfilling for breakfast, go have a walk around to look for a better place to eat at.

Overall, I would recommend this hotel as I’m a stickler for convenience! ^_^


Address:
1834-11 Hojo, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture 294-0045, Japan

Tel: 0470-24-1122

URL: http://hotel-migrant.com/ (in Japanese only)

Enquiry: hotel@migrant.jp (I would think you’ll need to correspond in Japanese too)

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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