Japan boasts the 10th largest tea production in the world. Although the production volume is not that large, Japanese green tea has enthusiasts worldwide, and the brand power of "Japanese tea" is alive and well worldwide.
Here, we will introduce each prefecture's tea production volume and each production area's characteristics.
Tea producing regions in Japan
In Japan, there are many famous tea producing regions such as Shizuoka Prefecture.
Let's take a look at the production volume of tea in Japan as a whole and by prefecture.
Production volume by prefecture
As of 2014, green tea is grown in 40 Prefectures in Japan.
Green tea cultivars are hard to grow in cold regions, so it is rarely grown in areas further north than Niigata and Ibaraki Prefectures.
Among them, Shizuoka Prefecture has the largest production volume, accounting for about 38% of the total in Japan.
Kagoshima, Mie and Kyoto are other prefectures that produce a lot of green tea.
Green tea planted area by prefecture
As of 2019, Shizuoka has the largest green tea planted area by prefecture.
In Shizuoka, 15,900 hectares of land are devoted to tea cultivation, far ahead of the 2nd place.
Kagoshima Prefecture was ranked the 2nd, and Mie Prefecture the 3rd, and there is basically a proportional relationship between production and planted area.
Characteristics of green tea production in each prefecture
In this section, I will briefly explain the characteristics of green tea production in each prefecture.
As mentioned above, Shizuoka Prefecture is the largest tea producing region in Japan in terms of both production volume and the planted area.
The feature is that there are a lot of lands suitable for producing good qualsity tea.
However, it is also true that problems such as the deterioration of the management of the tea industry and the shortage of successors have been occurring.
Nowadays, in order to overcome this situation, they are trying to use green tea to attract tourists. It is called “green tourism” that combines tourism resources and green tea.
Kagoshima Prefecture is the 2nd largest tea production in Japan and is famous for its tea producing region.
Farmers produce green tea with a wide variety of tastes, such as fragrant tea that takes advantage of the characteristics of the mountainous region, where there is a large difference in temperature between day and night, and tea with a distinct taste grown in the rich sunshine.
The green tea grown in Mie Prefecture is also called “Ise tea” and has a long history of about 1,000 years.
Mie Prefecture played an important role in earning foreign currency by exporting tea from the late Edo period to the early Meiji period.
Today, the production volume of “Kabusecha” which is cultivated by covering the tea plantations, is the largest in Japan.
Miyazaki prefecture has been known as a famous tea production area since the Edo period.
Farmers are actively supporting the tea industry by cultivating the cold-tolerant “Kirari 31” tea cultivar, and by jointly developing a new type of tea processing machine.
The tea produced in Fukuoka Prefecture is characterized by its sweet and deep taste, and is commonly known as “Yame tea”.
Yame's Gyokuro is grown using traditional rice straw, and has won the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award at the National Tea Fair for 10 consecutive years.
Kyoto is known for its traditional green tea production, but it was ASHIKAGA Yoshimitsu, the 3rd shogun of the Muromachi period, who laid the foundation for this.
It is said that he was attracted by the great taste of Uji tea and opened the famous green tea production area called “Uji Shichimeien”(The seven tea gardens).
In addition, the manufacturing method of Uji tea, which emphasizes quality, has been passed down to modern mechanical green tea production, and is characterized by its production based on the hand-rolling process.
Saitama Prefecture is known as the “Sayama Tea” and is the northernmost region of green tea cultivation.
The characteristic of Sayama tea is that it has a sweet and rich taste when it overcomes the cold winter.
Although it can only be harvested twice a year due to the cold environment, it is attractive because of its excellent quality and storage behavior.
Nara Prefecture is a producing region of “Yamato tea”.
It is said that the cultivation of Yamato tea started in 806, and it has been passed down for about 1,200 years.
Originally, the tea company in Nara mainly produced Sencha (steeped green tea), Kabusecha and Bancha, but in recent years it has also produced “Tencha” which is the raw material of Matcha.
Saga Prefecture is home to Ureshino, a famous tea production area, and boasts the 8th largest production volume in Japan.
Ureshino tea is characterized by its strong aroma and flavor of tea leaves.
At the end of the Edo period, it had exported to the UK in large quantities.
Gifu Prefecture is a producing region of “Mino tea”.
It is characterized by the rich aroma and taste of green tea grown in the blessed environment with many 3,000 meter high mountains.
Today, two major brands are sold: “Mino-Ibi tea” in the west Mino area and “Mino-Shirakawa tea” in the central Mino area.
Saitama Prefecture’s Japanese tea production is about 1% of the domestic production. Saitama is not a prefecture with a large production volume, but ‘Sayama tea’ is one of the three major teas in Japan along with ‘Shizuoka tea’ and ‘Uji tea’ and is also recognized as one of the top production areas of high-quality Japanese tea.
The production in Saitama is small because of its location.
In areas such as Kagoshima Prefecture, where climate and sunshine are favorable, tea can be harvested up to five times a year, while in Saitama, which is a cold region for producing tea, it can only harvest twice a year.
In addition to this, due to the small cultivation area, the amount of tea production has to be small.
History of green tea production in Saitama Prefecture
It is said that the green tea production in Saitama prefecture started in the Kamakura period.
It was triggered by the tea tree planted by the Priest Myoe in Kawagoe.
During the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the green tea from Saitama was popularly known as ‘Kawagoe Tea’ and from around this time, it was known as the tea production area of the eastern provinces.
It was in the late Edo period that tea cultivation started in earnest in Saitama. YOSHIKAWA Yoshizumi and MURANO Morimasa of Miyadera in Iruma City have succeeded in mass-producing of steamed green tea, adopting methods from Uji, Kyoto. Gradually, tea cultivation became popular as a specialty of Saitama prefecture, and areas where tea was cultivated also expanded.
During the Meiji period, Kawagoe tea was integrated into the ‘Sayama tea’ brand for export, and has become a representative crop of Saitama.
Tea-growing areas in Saitama Prefecture
The green tea growing area of Saitama is scattered all over the prefecture, but the main one is around Iruma City where the Sayama tea is cultivated.
‘Sayama tea’ is made mainly in Sayama City, Iruma City and Tokorozawa City in western part of Saitama Prefecture.
Although it is called Sayama tea, its cultivation is more popular in Iruma than in Sayama, because Iruma has a lot of rain and is well drained, making it suitable for green tea cultivation.
There is a Sayama tea picking song that is said ‘Shizuoka has the finest color, Uji is the finest fragrance, and the tea with the best taste is Sayama’ which is highly evaluated for its deep flavor.
Sayama tea has a unique finishing technique called ‘Sayama Biire’(roasting method). It is a traditional method to heat strongly in the process of finishing green tea. This makes the tea rich and flavorful.
Kyoto is known as one of the most famous green tea producing areas, however, it is actually the 5th largest producer after Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Mie and Miyazaki.
The production was 3,700 tons in 2019, which was approximately 3.6% of the total domestic green tea production. Whereas, it has a large share of high-end tea such as Gyokuro and Matcha.
Recommended cultivars such as “Yabukita”, “Hoshun”, “Ushimidori”, “Kyomidori”, “Asahi”, “Ujihikari”, “Tenmyo” and “Samidori”are cultivated in Kyoto.
The history of tea production in Kyoto Prefecture
It is said that the green tea cultivation in Kyoto originated with a monk named Myoe Shonin in The Kamakura period. He planted tea leaves brought from China at the temple Koenji (Togano, Ukyo, Kyoto) and in Uji. Therefore, Koenji has a monument that says “The oldest tea plantation”.
In the Muromachi period, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga built his own tea plantation called Uji Shichimeien to promote the tea cultivation. There were eventually seven plantations called Umojien, Kawashimoen, Iwaien, Morien, Biwaen, Okunoyamaen and Asahien, but only Okunoyamaen is extant in Ujizenho
In the late 16th century, the technique “Covered Cultivation” was developed in Uji. As a result, dark green colored tea leaves with strong umami flavour could be produced and Uji is now known as one of the best high-end tea producing districts.
In the Edo period, Nagatani Soen developed a method called Aosei sencha seiho or Uji seiho. It is a unique Japanese method of rolling and drying tea leaves, which resulted in Green tea (Sencha). This is what made Uji as “The birthplace of Green tea”. This method is still a major method of Japanese green tea.
In the late Edo period, the Uji method was used to produce Gyokuro from cover-cultivated green tea leaves, and the tea was widely consumed in the upper class.
Kyoto has been well-known as a great green tea producing area for ages. As it is still famous for its green tea production, the Kyoto prefecture has been working on projects such as the maintenance of green tea plantations, the promotion of the green tea industry and the spread of the green tea culture.
Tea-growing areas in Kyoto Prefecture
Green tea leaves are cultivated in the south area of Kyoto which is Yamashiro district including Uji, Ujitawara and Wazuka. These are the major green tea producing areas.
The specialty of Kyoto’s green tea is definitely Ujicha that is considered as one of the best three Japanese green tea same as Shizuokacha and Sayamacha.
Ujicha is cultivated in and around Uji. It is said that the area is suitable for cultivating tea in terms of its average temperature, annual rainfall and the temperature difference between day and night.
Ujicha mainly produces Sencha as well as Tencha and Gyokuro. Since Tencha is the ingredient of Matcha, Uji is also well-known as a Matcha producing area.
Mie is the third prefecture in tea production. Although it is far behind Shizuoka Prefecture and Kagoshima Prefecture, the top and the second respectively, it is one of the major tea producers in Japan with the 2018 annual production being 6,240 tons.
Teas grown in Mie Prefecture are generally called “Ise tea,” which is certificated as a Mie Brand. In addition to “Yabukita,” the prefecture’s main cultivar,” “Sayamakaori,” “Okumidori,” and “Saemidori” are also common.
It is less-known that Mie Prefecture has the largest share of the tea being processed for desserts such as ice cream.
History of tea production in Mie Prefecture
Mie Prefecture has a long history of tea cultivation. The earliest record mentions that tea cultivation was taking place at Ichijō-ji Temple in Suizawa-chō, Yokkaichi City. Myōe Shōnin, a Japanese Buddhist monk who popularized tea cultivation through the country during the Kamakura Period, sowed tea seeds in Kawakami, Ise. This also implies the lengthy history of Ise tea.
At the end of Edo Period, the chief priest of Jōgan-ji Temple, Kyōkō Nakagawa, brought tea seeds from Uji. He contributed to the popularization and development of industrial tea cultivation.
Tea production in Mie Prefecture has such a long history and a suitable location. As mentioned above, it is also the third largest tea-producing prefecture in today’s Japan. Unfortunately, however, the region has a comparatively low standing and Ise tea is not so well-known.
One thing is that most of the tea shipped from Mie Prefecture is used as an ingredient of a branded tea in other prefectures, which makes it difficult to build a strong brand. For example, a tea produced in Mie Prefecture and processed in Shizuoka Prefecture is sold as Shizuoka tea.
Tea-growing areas in Mie Prefecture
The land of Mie Prefecture is narrow from north to south. Most parts there have a mild climate. The average temperature is 14 -15 degrees C. The rainy region’s well-drained soil is suitable for tea cultivation.
Teas produced in Mie Prefecture are all included in the brand of Ise tea. The region has, broadly speaking, two tea-growing areas of Hokusei and Chu-nansei.
Hokusei area has the three major cities of Suzuka, Yokkaichi, and Kameyama. A lot of Sencha (steeped green tea) and Kabusecha (covered tea) are produced there. Mie is the largest producer of Kabusecha by prefecture.
The name Kabusecha comes from “cover culture,” one of cultivation methods (“kabuseru” in Japanese means “to cover”). In this process, they cover tea plants to protect them from sunlight 7 to 10 days prior to harvest, which deepens the umami of tea and darkens the color of leaves.
Chu-nansei area includes Matsusaka City, Odai-chō, and Watarai-chō. They utilize valley slopes and riverfront flatlands to produce plenty of high-quality Sencha and Fukamushi-Sencha (deep-steamed steeped green tea).
The best remembered tea-growing region in Japan is Shizuoka Prefecture.
As one of the nation’s leading tea-producing regions, Shizuoka has many parts suited for tea cultivation in landscape, water quality, climate, etc. It is the top tea-producing prefecture in Japan. In 2017, it produced 30,800 tons, about 40% of the national production, making it the largest tea-growing area in Japan.
Sencha (steeped green tea), especially Fukamushi-Sencha (deep-steamed steeped green tea), is the most common there. Their main cultivar is “Yabukita,” but they also grow a variety of cultivars such as“Okuhikari,” “Yamanoibuki,” “Kōshun,” “Tsuyuhikari,” and “Yamakai.”
This article helps you discover Shizuoka Prefecture’s history of tea production and tea-growing areas.
Is Shizuoka’s main tea “Yabukita?”
“Yabukita” accounts for more than 70% of the tea produced in Japan. Shizuoka in particular produces a lot of it.
This cultivar was picked out by Hikosaburō Sugiyama, a tea cultivar improvement pioneer, in Suruga Province (today’s Suruga Ward, Shizuoka City) in 1908. It was comparatively easy to grow and of very high quality as Sencha. For these reasons, it became Shizuoka Prefecture’s recommended cultivar in 1945 and spread through the country. It still keeps a large share of the domestic production.
Shizuoka Prefecture, as the first producer of “Yabukita” in Japan, maintains a very strong share of it, over 90% of the prefecture’s tea cultivation area.
History of tea production in Shizuoka Prefecture
Tea cultivation in Shizuoka can be traced back to the Kamakura Period.
Shōichi Kokushi, a Japanese Buddhist monk, is said to have brought back tea seeds from the Song dynasty (today’s China), where he had his overseas study. They say, noting his birthplace was Suruga Province, he planted the seeds in Ashikubo, Suruga (today’s Ashikubo, Shizuoka City) near his hometown. This episode gave Shōichi Kokushi the moniker “Originator of Shizuoka Tea.” Shizuoka City celebrates his birthday November 1st as Tea Day.
Entering the Edo Period, Shizuoka tea started being purveyed to the Tokugawa Shogunate. As a result, it gained an increasing recognition as refined tea.
It was in the Meiji Period when tea plantation expanded from intermountain areas to tablelands. The reclamation of the Makinohara Plateau greatly increased production volume. Around the middle of the Meiji Period, Shizuoka Prefecture became the leading tea-growing region, in name and reality, with the country’s largest output.
Mechanized mass production soon became common and increased tea production throughout the country. However, Shizuoka Prefecture still boasts the largest production volume in Japan.
Tea-growing areas in Shizuoka Prefecture
It’s no exaggeration that Shizuoka, as one of the nation’s major tea producers, grows tea everywhere in the prefecture. If you drive there, you will see tea plantations all around the region.
Main tea-growing areas are Makinohara City, with the Makinohara Plateau having reclaimed during the Meiji Period, and classical tea producers such as Shimada City and Kakegawa City. Intermountain areas including the upper Ōi River and Tenryū River, well-conditioned in climate and water quality, are also important.
The fact that every tea-growing area has its own branded tea makes Shizuoka tea more attractive. The following brands are well-known nationwide.
Kawane tea is from the upper Ōi River, running through the central part of Shizuoka Prefecture. Clear water and air of the high-altitude intermountain area make the tea of high quality. The first Emperor-Cup award-winning product in the Japanese tea industry is so distinguished.
The liquid has a light and greenish-yellow color. Enjoy its fresh aroma and mild flavor.
The city of Kakegawa, located in the west of Shizuoka Prefecture, is known as one of the birthplaces of Fukamushi-Sencha. Kakegawa tea’s leaves grow thick in the mild climate. Fukamushi, the prolonged steaming process, is said to have been devised to reduce its bitterness and astringency. Most of today’s Kakegawa tea is still Fukamushi-Sencha.
The liquid has a dark color. Its rich aroma, sweetness, and umami will entertain you.
Honyama tea is from the upper Abe River, running through the central part of Shizuoka Prefecture. Shōichi Kokushi described above supposedly planted his tea seeds in this area, which implies Honyama tea has the longest history in Shizuoka.
Its liquid color is said to be “golden transparent.” Enjoy its characteristic smooth and fresh flavors.
Ishikawa Prefecture is famous as the birthplace of ‘Kaga- bocha’ but it is not an area where tea growing is popular. Although the production volume is extremely small, the fact that Ishikawa has a certain reputation as a tea production area is probably due to strong brand power of ‘Kaga- bocha’.
History of tea production in Ishikawa Prefecture
Ishikawa has been growing tea since the Edo period. It is said that tea growing was started by the order of the lord of Daishoji Domain in Uchikoshi Town (as of now). The tea culture in Ishikawa was greatly influenced by the fact that MAEDA Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga Domain, learned the tea ceremony directly from SEN no Rikyu. In addition to that, the tea cultivation and production methods were brought to Ishikawa from Uji, Kyoto.
It was in the middle of the Meiji period that ‘Kaga- bocha’, a well-known brand of tea in Ishikawa, was born. It was triggered by roasting the stems of tea after Sanbancha (third picking) which had been thrown away before.
However, a cold climate with short sunshine hours was not suitable for growing tea, and many tea plantations were lost in the field improvement project in the late 19th century. After that, the Uchikoshi Tea Industry and Agricultural Cooperative Association created a new tea garden to protect tea production, and only a few traditional tea gardens remain today.
Even now, the tea ceremony is popular in Ishikawa which is said to feature one of the best tea ceremonies in Japan.
Tea-growing areas in Ishikawa Prefecture
As I mentioned at the beginning, the amount of tea produced in Ishikawa is small. In the Edo period, Ishikawa was so famous as a tea production area that it offered tea to the lord of Kaga Domain, but tea is hardly produced now.
In addition to Kaga bocha, there are other types of tea such as ‘Nakai tea’ and ‘Wajima tea’ in Ishikawa, but these are also little known due to their small production volume.
Speaking of brand tea in Ishikawa prefecture, it is Kaga bocha.
Kaga-bocha is ’Bocha’ made in Ishikawa prefecture.
Bocha is the tea made from roasted stems, not tea leaves. Kaga-bocha is especially made by roasting the stems of the first tea. It is a kind of roasted green tea, and it is said to have a unique aromatic scent.
Since the tea production in Ishikawa is very small, it is almost the case that tea wholesalers in Ishikawa purchased tea grown in other prefectures for finishing and roasting.
Kaga-bocha is registered in Ishikawa Prefecture’s certified local food, and it is a specialty of Ishikawa. It was presented to the Emperor Showa, so it deserves to be called Meicha, high-quality Japanese tea.
In 2018, Saga produced 1,270 tons of tea. It is the prefecture with the 7th share this year. It is also the No. 2 producer in terms of the production volume of Tama-ryokucha (green tea), also known as ‘Guri-cha’.
Cultivated varieties include ‘Yabukita’, ‘Saemidori’, ‘Saeakari’, ‘Sakimidori’, ‘Asatsuyu’, ‘Okuyutaka’, and ‘Okumidori’.
History of green tea production in Saga Prefecture
The green tea growing started in the Ureshino district in the southwestern part of Saga.
In 1440, Ming potters moved to Ureshino and began growing and producing green tea.
In 1504, Hong Lingmin, another Ming potter, brought the Nanjing pot along with the pottery culture and introduced the method of manufacturing Kamairicha.
The method of manufacturing Sencha(steeped green tea) was developed in the Edo period, so Kamairicha of Ureshino had already been produced before Sencha spread in Japan.
Ureshino became a major production area in the early Edo period, when YOSHIMURA Shinbei of the Saga clan cut open the Ureshino forest, improved the method of manufacturing the Nanjing pot, and promoted the green tea industry, which greatly expanded the amount of cultivation.
At the end of the Edo period, Ureshino tea was exported by OURA Kei, a woman trader in Nagasaki.
This is considered to be the first tea trade by the private sector, and it was 100 years before the port of Yokohama was opened and Japanese tea was officially exported.
Tea-growing areas in Saga Prefecture
There are many green tea growing areas in Saga Prefecture, including Takeo City, Imari City, Shioda Town, and Kitahata Village. Ureshino City is the most famous for its tea production.
Ureshino tea is made mainly in Ureshino city in the southwestern part of Saga prefecture.
The Ureshino tea region is located in a gentle mountain area with a thick fog, and is suitable for growing green tea due to its warm climate and the duration of sunlight. The temperature difference in the morning and evening makes the green tea mild and gives it fragrance and richness.
Tama-ryokucha (green tea) is made in Ureshino.
Usually, tea leaves are straightened out, but the tea leaves of Tama-ryokucha have a unique rounded, curved shape (like a comma-shaped bead). It is also called ‘Guri-cha’,
Depending on the manufacturing method, there are ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’ and ‘Roasted Tama-ryokucha’. ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’ is made by steaming tea leaves and ‘Roasted Tama-ryokucha’ is made by roasting tea leaves.
Most of Ureshino tea is ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’.
In 2018, Miyazaki produced 3,800 tons of tea. It is the prefecture that boasts the 4th largest production in Japan, accounting for about 5% of the total production this year.
Most of the green tea produced in Miyazaki is Sencha(steeped green tea), which accounts for about 80% of the total production.
Although their tea production volume is small, Miyazaki is famous for Kamairicha. In addition, in so far as the production volume of Kamairicha is the largest in Japan.
Cultivated varieties include ‘Yabukita’, ‘Saemidori’, ‘Yumekaori’, ‘Sakimidori’ and ‘Harumoegi’.
History of tea production in Miyazaki Prefecture
It is said that people in Miyazaki have had Yamacha (native tea bush) which grows wild in mountainous areas since old days.
Records related to green tea have been kept since the 1600s. At that time, tea was used for tribute and property tax.
It was after Meiji period (1868-1912) that tea was made in Miyazaki in earnest.
The method of manufacturing Kamairicha, which was also used for Yamacha, and Sencha(steeped green tea), which came from Uji, had spread throughout Miyazaki.
The method of manufacturing Kamairicha was brought from Korea around 1600. It is said that in 1751, IKEDA Sadaki, a doctor of Miyakonojo Shimazu Domain, learned the method of manufacturing green tea from Uji and passed it on to Miyazaki.
From the end of Taisho period (1912-1926) to the beginning of Showa period (1926-1989), Miyazaki prefecture promoted tea industry, and the foundation of manufacturing tea was completed.
In the Showa 40s (1965 -1974), the area of tea gardens and production volume, which had decreased due to the War, recovered.
After that, the area of tea gardens tended to decrease until around 1998, but from around 1999, both of the area of tea gardens and production volume of tea gradually increased. In recent years, Miyazaki has been striving to be a ‘Japan's best tea producing area’ and growing high quality tea, with good results in the National Tea Fair.
Tea-growing areas in Miyazaki Prefecture
Miyazaki Prefecture is suitable for growing green tea because of its mild climate, fertile land and rainfall.
Green tea is produced in wide areas ranging from coastal areas to mountainous areas at an altitude of 700 meters.
Takachiho tea is made in the mountainous area around Takachiho Town in the northwestern part of Miyazaki Prefecture.
Most of Takachiho tea is Kamairicha. The production volume of Kamairicha, which is made by roasting freshly harvested tea leaves in the iron pot instead of steaming, is less than 1% of the total production volume in Japan. However, most of Kamairicha is made in Kyushu, and about 60% of it is produced in Miyazaki.
Takachiho tea has a clear gold color, and you can enjoy its unique fragrant aroma called Kamaka and refreshing taste.
In 2017, Nara produced 1,730 tons of tea, making it the 7th largest tea-producing prefecture of the year.
The green tea produced in Nara is collectively called ‘Yamato tea’ and it produces Kabusecha, Sencha(steeped green tea), Bancha and Tencha.
History of tea production in Nara Prefecture
Kobo Daishi (Kukai) was involved in origin of the tea growing in Nara Prefecture.
In 806, Kobo Daishi brought back tea seeds from Tang dynasty and gave them to his disciple Kenne, who is said to have planted those seeds in Butsuryu-ji temple.
It is also said that Kobo Daishi brought back a chausu (stone tea grinding mill) from Tang at that time, and that chausu is still kept at Butsuryu-ji.
After that, the tea culture spread mainly in temples, and in the Muromachi period, ‘wabicha’ was born by MURATA Juko, who was a master of tea ceremony from Nara. ‘Wabicha’ a tea ceremony that values the spirit of ‘wabi’ (traditional Japanese aesthetics) led to the tea ceremony that was later completed by SEN no Rikyu and to the modern tea ceremony.
Nara is not only blessed with natural conditions, but also has a history of spreading and developing green tea due to the relationship with Buddhism as there are many temples, making it a rare tea production area in Japan.
Tea-growing areas in Nara Prefecture
Yamato tea is mainly grown in the Yamato highland area in the northeastern part of Nara Prefecture.
Yamato Plateau is a cool mountain area stretching across Nara City, Tenri City, Sakurai City and Uda City, and is a very suitable area for growing good quality tea because of its short daylight hours and large temperature difference in the morning and evening.
Because of the short hours of sunlight, tea grows slowly, and the leaves are rich in nutrients due to the temperature difference.
Among them, ‘Tsukigase tea’ made in Tsukigase, Nara City, is one of the well-known brands of Japanese tea.
Tsukigase is known not only as a green tea production area but also as a production area of high quality soil and a famous plum blossom spot.
Tsukigase is a mountainous region where green tea is cultivated, and it is said that tea harvest time is one of the latest in Japan.
The Shincha(First picked tea)is usually harvested around May 2nd, but Tsukigase tea grows slowly because it is grown in cool areas, and the first harvest may be in June. There is a big difference from Kagoshima where the harvest starts in early April.
About 80% of tea grown in Tsukigase is Kabuse-cha, which is characterized by its rich umami flavor.
Fukuoka is the fifth largest green tea producing region.
The production was 1,890 tons in 2019, which was approximately 2.2% of the total domestic green tea production.
It cultivates green tea leaves such as“Yabukita”, “Kanayamidori”, “Okumidori”, “Saemidori”and “Yamakai”
It produces a variety of green tea like Sencha, Kabusecha, Gyokuro, Bancha, and Kamairicha. Particularly, Fukuoka is known as an excellent high-end tea producing area whose production is the most in Japan.
The history of tea production in Fukuoka Prefecture
The green tea cultivation in Fukuoka originated in Yame located in the southwest area.
Reigenji in Chikugonokuni Kozumagun Kanokomura (currently Kurokimachi Kasahara) and planted tea leaves brought from China.
In around the same period of time, it is said that he taught the village headman Matuso Taro Goro Hisaie how to cultivate and produce Kamairicha. This is the origin of Green tea cultivation/production in Fukuoka.
In the middle of the Edo period, a small amount of Kamairicha got distributed to Kyoto and Osaka from Yame. However, the majority was distributed in Kurume district as the production of Kamairicha was very small at that time.
The current cultivar of Gyokuro which is Yamecha’s greatest specialty was first produced in the Meiji era. A monk Takita Oken of the temple Kiyomizudera in Yamato gun (currently Miyama) built a training place to teach methods of cultivating and producing Gyokuro, which resulted in the spread of Gyokuro production.
On the other hand, the export share of Kamairicha dropped sharply due to the prohibition against the poor quality tea export issued by the US. Later, the produce of Kamairicha gradually reduced in the domestic market, while steamed green tea became more popular than Kamairicha.
Later, as the manufacture of green tea developed in the Taisho era, many local green tea brands got merged into the brand “Yamecha” that is led to the present Yamecha
Tea-growing areas in Fukuoka Prefecture
90% of green tea cultivation areas of Fukuoka are located in Yame district, and all the green tea leaves cultivated in the areas are called “Yamecha”
Yamecha is tea leaves produced in the southwest areas in Fukuoka such as Yame, Chikugo and Hirokawa located next to Yame.
Green tea (Sencha) is mainly produced and Gyokuro is also produced in mountain areas.
Yame is one of the largest producers of Gyokuro in Japan, and Yame Gyokuro is highly rated as it has been prize-winning for 19 years in a row at the domestic competitive tea exhibition. Yame Gyokuro is one of the most valuable teas in japan as well as its production and quality.
It is relatively unknown that Kagoshima Prefecture’s tea production is the second most in Japan. Its volume is increasing year after year and getting close to the production of Shizuoka Prefecture. In 2017, it produced 26,600 tons, about 32% of the domestic production.
On top “Yabukita,” the prefecture’s main cultivar, others such as “Yutakamidori, “Saemidori,” “Asatsuyu,” and “Okumidori” are also common there. In particular, Kagoshima Prefecture is the largest producer of “Yutakamidori,” the second most popular cultivar in Japan after “Yabukita.”
This article helps you discover Kagoshima Prefecture’s history of tea production and tea-growing areas
Does Kagoshima Prefecture’s Sincha (first flush green tea) come the first in Japan?
Kagoshima Prefecture, as the southernmost tea-growing region of the Japan’s mainland, has a mild climate and long sunshine duration, which permits the earliest shipment of Shincha in Japan.
While Shizuoka or Kyōto’s usual picking season is from mid-April to early May, Kagoshima and Tanegashima start picking tea in early April and late March respectively. Their Shincha is called “Hashiri-shincha” or “Ōhashiri-shincha,” and shipped the earliest to the market.
A long shipping period also features Kagoshima Prefecture. It produces Sencha (steeped green tea) and many other teas from Ichi-Bancha (first tea) in April to Shuto-Bancha (autumn-winter tea) in October.
History of tea production in Kagoshima Prefecture
There are several views on the origin of tea cultivation in Kagoshima Prefecture.
One of them explains that some fleeing Heike warriors brought tea to Kimpō-chō-Ata-Shirakawa at the beginning of the Kamakura Period. Other says that they ordered tea seeds from Uji and planted them in Yoshimatsu-chō (currently merged into Yūsui-chō) during the Muromachi Period.
In the aftermath, the Shimazu Domain encouraged tea plantation. However, tea cultivation and production began in full scale only after the Second World War.
The late-comer advantage of Kagoshima Prefecture enabled early installment of equipment for a low-cost and mass production through mechanization, which pumped up output. The flat cultivation land also helped mechanization at a large extent.
The advanced incorporation of agriculture and the high number of large-scale farmers are also characteristics of tea plantation in Kagoshima Prefecture. Farms are well-managed municipally so that there are less abandoned farm lands. Its average farm acreage is very large thanks to mechanization.
Tea-growing areas in Kagoshima Prefecture
Located in the southernmost tip of Kyūshū, Kagoshima’s warm climate and long sunshine duration make tea cultivation easier in many areas of the prefecture. Minamikyūshū City, in particular, is the nation’s top municipality in tea production, even beyond any municipality in Shizuoka Prefecture, and the largest tea producer.
Teas grown in Kagoshima Prefecture are called Kagoshima tea collectively. Among them, Chiran tea is a well-known tea brand.
Chiran tea originally refers to a tea produced in Chiran-chō of Minamikyūshū City. However, three different brands of Chiran, Ei, and Kawanabe teas fell together in the category of Chiran tea due to the municipality merger in 2017
Kagoshima Prefecture’s long sunshine duration makes thick tea leaves with bitterness and astringency. To ease these flavors, preharvest cover culture was introduced and Fukamushi-Sencha (deep-steamed steep green tea) with prolonged steaming yielding a mild flavor became common. As a result, the liquid comes in its most characteristic dark green color.