It's Lunch Time

Japan Hour

Japan Hour - Spring in Japan
It's Lunch Time


Japan Hour:

It's Lunch Time

We embark on another “food investigation” journey around Japan this week. Our first stop is Mount Rokko, which overlooks the city of Kobe. From Kobe, we take a cable car up to Rokko Sanjo Station, 737m above sea level. Once we arrive, we head to an observatory. On a clear day, one can see Kansai International Airport all the way to Awaji Island. However, the dazzling night view of Kobe is the main draw, with the whole city spread out before you.

Our aim is to find houses on Mount Rokko with a spectacular view of Kobe. There are 117 households living here, comprising over 200 people. We head to one of the many palatial residential areas where we see several houses with huge properties. One of the residents we speak to, Mrs Kusano, suggests we check out the home of the Brian family as it boasts a wonderful view. On the way to the house, we pass by Japan’s oldest golf course, the Kobe Golf Club.

We finally reach the home of Nelson Brian, where he stays with his wife Kayo and two sons, Isaku and Yoshiya. Nelson moved to Osaka from Colorado at the age of 23 in 1991 for his import/export business. Currently a business consultant, he bought this spacious house on Mount Rokko in 2004 for 19 million yen. It was previously a convalescent home and Nelson spent two years renovating it with his father.

It now has 11 bedrooms with a living room, dining room and kitchen. There is even a play room with a table tennis table, trampoline and lots of toys. The view from Nelson’s huge balcony is amazing; we can see the airport and even Rokko Island. Nelson also has two cottages, which are used as guest houses. They each have a loft which can accommodate up to four people. 

We ask to see what the family is having for dinner. Nelson is hosting a barbecue for friends so invites us to join them. Kayo makes a few side dishes such as potato salad and stir-fried sausages with green beans. For the barbecue, meatballs are lightly sauteed and then put on a stick; vegetables are seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil; and chicken wings are marinated with salt, pepper, sugar, herbs and Kayo's homemade sauce made of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. 

After the barbecue, we search for more houses with a nice view. We come across another house and meet 69-year-old Sumiko who has been living here for 16 years. She stays with her son and daughter-in-law and tells us the best spot to see the night skyline is from one of the bedrooms. Ms Sumiko tells us that her son, Yoshiaki, owns a one-star Michelin Japanese restaurant Gyogin Doi. It is 20 minutes away by car from Mount Rokko. 

Next, we take a bus trip in Shizuoka Prefecture to discover more interesting spots and delicious food. The Ryusozan bus line starts from Shizuoka Station and spans 13.3km, covering 41 bus stops. So we begin from Shizuoka City and hop on the 8.10am bus going towards Sokusawa Station. We alight at Hakasedaira after a 40-minute journey. Shizuoka is famous for its tea and we are treated to a wonderful view of the tea plantations here. After walking for about an hour, we pass by the Ryuso Tea Agricultural Cooperative Association. Ryuso Choice Tea is produced at this factory and about 4.5 tonnes of this tea are shipped annually. 

We are taken on a tour of the factory. We learn how the tea leaves are processed and later steamed at 110 degrees for around 45 seconds. We later see how “regular choice tea” is processed. Keishi Mochizuki tells us this tea is colourless and transparent, the aroma is fresh and well-rounded, and it tastes sweet. He demonstrates how to serve the tea and shares with us that the trick to making delicious tea is to ensure the temperature of the water, teacup and teapot is the same.

During harvesting season, Mr Mochizuki starts work at 5am so his wife brings him lunch every day. He agrees to shows us his meal. There is saury dipped and broiled in soy sauce; rice with seaweed; and cucumber, radish, butterbur and Chinese cabbage pickled with salted seaweed.

Mr Mochizuki worked in the tea plantation until about five years ago. Now, he cultivates shiitake mushrooms. So after his shift at the factory ends at 1pm, he drives us to his shiitake mushroom greenhouse. He grows shiitake mushrooms on 2,000 raw timber logs. He takes us to his house where his wife has just finished cooking a dish with dried shiitake mushrooms and salted seaweed. She also makes shiitake and squid tempura, and deep-fried shiitake mushrooms. After this, Mr Mochizuki drives us to the nearest bus stop, from where we continue our journey towards Sokusawa.

1) Don’t miss seeing the dazzling night view of Kobe from Mount Rokko
2) Do try Shizuoka’s famous tea when visiting the prefecture