[From March Issue 2015]
Run by local government, Boso-no-Mura is a theme park located in Chiba Prefecture. It’s a 20 minute drive away from Narita International Airport. There you can experience the traditional lifestyle and crafts of Boso – the peninsula that covers the greater part of Chiba Prefecture. The theme-park covers an area of 51 hectares and is 11 times as big as Tokyo Dome. At its center is Boso-no-Mura where a project to grow and promote Edo era (17-19th centuries) vegetables has got underway.
Lots of vegetables used by people in Edo (the former name for Tokyo) were grown in the Hokuso Area (northern part of Chiba Prefecture which includes Narita City and Katori City). Vegetables eaten in Edo during the Edo period were called “Edo vegetables.” For the current project they are cultivating four kinds of vegetables: carrots, daikon (Japanese white radish), turnips, and Japanese mustard. Although they are not exactly the same varieties as those grown in that period, strains were selected that were as close as possible to those used.
Compared to modern-day vegetables that tend to have a standard size, appearance and harvesting season, Edo vegetables were quite diverse. As productivity is paramount in modern-day agriculture, selective breeding has advanced to the extent that Edo vegetables are no longer cultivated. However, as Edo vegetables are rich in fibre, sweet and strong tasting, they are delicious in soups and pickles.
In Boso-no-Mura, you can try your hand at harvesting Edo vegetables. Furthermore, at a nearby affiliated restaurant, the menu has been designed so visitors can enjoy eating these vegetables either boiled or pickled. GUO Chuanyu, a Chinese citizen who took part in the activity says, “Since I have hardly ever harvested daikon and carrots, it was a lot of fun. The Edo vegetables were delicious, too.”
Project manager OGASAWARA Nagataka says, “With Edo vegetables, cooperation within the region is growing. Some farming families, people who have their own kitchen gardens, and schools are now growing Edo vegetables. From now on, I would like to cooperate with people living in other areas too; by promoting Edo vegetables to people living in cities and to tourists from overseas, hopefully they will participate in our agriculture experience program. As these cultural exchanges blossom, it would be nice if that regenerated our local economy.”
The town of Sawara is a 30 minute drive away from Boso-no-Mura. The town’s shipping trade prospered during the Edo period and some of its streets from that time are still intact. Also of interest is the house of INO Tadataka, the first person to complete a map of Japan based on surveyed measurements. Nearby, too, is Katori Shrine, a location thought to be filled with spiritual energy. By not only experiencing Edo vegetables, but also by walking the streets of this old town, you’ll feel as if you’ve slipped back in time.
Text: KONO Yu