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Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho

The luxury of picking shiitake mushrooms directly from raw wood and then eating them

Providing the rich bounty of nature to urban dwellers

Eating wood-grown shiitake mushrooms freshly picked? There is a place where such a luxurious delight, hardly imaginable by city dwellers, can be experienced all year round. It is called Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho, a restaurant run by a farming household that serves items fresh from its own crops (photo 1). This experiential-style restaurant was opened in 1993 by Kotaro Kawashima and his wife, who also operate a farm producing shiitake mushrooms and mandarin oranges.
“We want more people to know the joy of connecting with pristine nature.” The concept under which the restaurant opened is an extremely simple one. Mr. Kawashima’s idea has become a reality with approximately 22,000 visitors arriving each year, the great majority of whom come from Yokohama, Kawasaki, the 23 wards of central Tokyo, or other urban areas.
Visitors experience the abundant bounty of nature that cannot be enjoyed in an urban setting and return home after actually partaking of its succulent bounty. It seems that recently, many entire families and groups of university students are coming to Kinokoen after finding it on the Internet.
Besides shiitake mushroom picking, which can be experienced all year round, the restaurant offers seasonal experiences such as mandarin orange picking (from early October through early January), blueberry picking (from late July through late August), and digging for bamboo shoots (from mid-April through early May).

An earthen-floored restaurant filled with the aroma of mushrooms

The restaurant found within Kinokoen has an earthen floor, in keeping with Mr. Kawashima’s idea that “As I am from a farming family, I would like to provide hospitality that is connected with the land” (photo 2). For that reason, here you can savor a strong feeling that you are right in the midst of nature.

On this day, two family groups were using a charcoal fire to grill and eat the shiitake mushrooms they had picked in the mushroom growing facility immediately behind the restaurant. An indescribable aroma filled the restaurant as the just-picked mushrooms were grilled.
The shiitake mushrooms at Kinokoen are grown not in sawdust but rather directly on raw wood (specifically, Quercus serrata). As a result, it takes roughly half a year until the shiitake mushrooms emerge from the wood. However, shiitake mushrooms grown on raw wood are cultivated using only the nutrients in the wood without any agricultural chemicals, so they can be used directly in cooking without washing them in water, and the aroma does not dissipate (photo 3).

Also involved in cultivating flowering peaches (terute-momo) and cherries (okame-zakura)

Mr. Kawashima built with his own hands seating for large groups of visitors with a lean-to roof in the most scenic spot on a mountain slope (photo 4). Seated here, visitors can enjoy the vast scenic views from the mountains of Odawara out to Sagami Bay. It is said that on clear days visitors can enjoy a panoramic view all the way to the Boso Peninsula.

Currently, the area in which Mr. Kawashima is investing the greatest effort is to gradually have all the fields fully abloom with flowering peaches (terute-momo) and cherries (okame-zakura). He has already planted 200 flowering peach trees. Unfortunately, when I visited Kinokoen to gather information for this article, the blossoms were not yet in bloom. Despite this, I could easily imagine the sight in the spring of the entire mountain in full bloom (photos 5 and 6).

by Kanagawa P.G.T.D.

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