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.