Within the treasure house of food that is Miyazaki Prefecture, the Kobayashi city area is of particular importance to Restaurant Hiramatsu Hiroo. Set in a valley, it enjoys a climate with a wide temperature range that makes it ideal for agricultural production.
Kobayashi also includes a natural spring ranked among Japan’s 100 Best Springs and known as Ide no Yamayusui, whose water is used in the farming of sturgeon.
An ideal climate and delicious water come together to create the perfect conditions for growing crops, and local agriculture turns out a wealth of high quality produce.
Kobayashi is the source of one particular foodstuff that is an essential part of Chef Hiroki Hiramatsu’s larder.
Taniyama Grape Farm: tended with dedication by two generations
Taniyama Grape Farm is known throughout Japan for its outstanding grapes, which are the result of the care and attention Mr Taniyama and his son lavish on the soil they are grown on.
“We only ship grapes we are satisfied with, so we often keep customers waiting,’ says the father, Mr Masato Taniyama, laughing. Speaking in a mixture of standard Japanese and Nishi-moro dialect, he embodies the local character.
The grapes they “can be satisfied with” are grown slowly and carefully, with painstaking care and attention to the soil at Taniyama Grape Farm.
“We use an organic fertilizer to improve the soil. We allow grain compost to rest for a year, then we add rice bran, fishmeal and lime, and let it rest for another two or three years. The grapes that grow on this soil are good and sweet, and packed with intense flavour.”
Biting into one of these astonishingly beautiful Shine Muscat grapes, you can’t help exclaiming at the delicious flavour and sweetness that fill your mouth. No wonder they have won Chef Hiramatsu’s approval.
French cuisine uses grapes not just in desserts but in savoury dishes too, so it’s important that they are really good.
“The European-style Shine Muscat are delicious, but the American-style Queen Nina are delicious too,” said Mr Taniyama, so we tried those too. Their sweetness was something special.
We were surprised that a simple fruit like grapes could be so rich and mellow. We understood that the power of great produce is a masterpiece created by soil, sunlight and water.
Taniyama Grape Farm
Exquisite vegetables grown with smiles on a high plateau
Our next stop was Mr Kajinami’s farm, the Ikoma Kogen Farm. It’s a little different from ordinary farms.
The instant I met Tatsuaki Kajinami, I understood what Chef Hiroki Hiramatsu had been talking about. Mr Kajinami’s farm is situated on the Ikoma Plateau, near Mt Kirishima. It’s breezy here, and the air is crisp and clean.
“We grow all kinds of different vegetables. Chefs come and ask us if we could grow this vegetable or that vegetable. Some even bring seeds,” Mr Kajinami said, laughing.
It’s not just chefs from French restaurants who visit Mr Kajinami, but those creating Italian, Chinese and many other cuisines.
“Some chefs even go out into the fields themselves, and cook food in our pizza oven using vegetables they’ve just picked.”
Mrs Kazue Kajinami told us, smiling, “We could just focus on one crop, but it’s nice to grow lots of different vegetables, you know? Our main aim is to use as few chemicals as possible. We want to grow safe vegetables that you can eat raw, just as they come. That’s the main basis of our approach to growing vegetables.”
Farmers can never relax: their life is a constant battle with insects and the changing weather, but, amazingly, Mr and Mrs Kajinamishow no sign of how hard they have to work.
The Kajinamis grow safe and delicious vegetables, and if a chef asks them, they are willing to try growing vegetables that other farmers can’t grow.
“I enjoy imagining what delicious dishes the chefs might cook up using our vegetables,” Mrs Kajinami said.
She picked a nearby leaf, and with nimble fingers folded it into an origami locust for us — another example of the harmony of soil, sunlight and water at work.
Chef Hiramatsu says,“When Mr Kajinami sends us vegetables, it’s almost as if he was there himself.”
The deliciousness that comes from soil, sunlight, water and Mr and Mrs Kajinami’s smiles adds sparkle to Restaurant Hiramatsu Hiroo’s cuisine.