Things to Do | Visit Chiba | Latest update:2023/03/17
A very popular activity in the agricultural regions of Japan is picking your own fruits at local orchards; “hunting” for fruit as they like to call it in Japanese. Picking and eating is of course a huge part of the fun, but it’s also a great way to expose people to the cultivation process of the things we typically buy in a grocery store without a second thought. The Sakura Mushroom Farm does just this, but is a rarity in the sense that it’s all about not fruit… but mushrooms, an admittedly harder sell than say, strawberries or apples. The flow of your mushroom adventure will be admiring the growing process, choosing your own fully organic mushrooms to harvest yourself, then barbecuing them later with some tasty side dishes purchased in the shop.
Step into a literal mushroom house, and be mesmerized by the shelves lined with sprouting shiitake mushrooms of all sizes. The air is kept moist to ensure consistent growth, and it’s this dark and cool place where you will begin your “mushroom hunt”. How are the mushrooms actually cultivated here? Large, specially prepared blocks of sawdust are placed along the shelves, then the mushrooms sprout their way out and mature to full size in about a week.
Your job here is to grab a basket and a pair of curved scissors, and collect some tasty-looking specimens to be barbecued later. The harvesting of the day will continue until the matured, bulbous shiitake are mostly gone, but we can of course expect the smaller ones to be bigger tomorrow!
In the next house over is another type of mushroom, typically used in noodle soups in China and Japan. “Kikurage”, also known as “wood ear” or “wood jellyfish”, is less like a mushroom and more like a fungal flower petal. These grow in the same way, but the blocks of sawdust used are wrapped in a film to prevent rot past a certain point. You don’t need scissors here, as you can just tear away petals of this mushroom with your fingers.
These ones are better enjoyed not roasted over an open flame, but rather wrapped in aluminum foil with butter to be slowly broiled over the charcoal.
Take your harvest to the register while the staff prepares your coal-fired barbecue out back. You’ll have all the tools you need for a mushroom grill party given to you, so you can jump right in to tasting your bounty. If you love mushrooms, then the appeal of this is self-explanatory, but even if you have never considered yourself a mushroom head, this could be a turning point for you. Roast the shiitake head-down over the coals, and slowly see the natural juices release and bubble. Try them with a dash of soy sauce or just straight!
Interestingly, the owner of the farm, Mr. Saito, comes from a long familial line of farmers, but was for much of his life a self-proclaimed hater of shiitake mushrooms (as some people, particularly kids, in Japan are). It wasn’t until he came in contact with a farmer in Chiba who gave him some freshly grown shiitake mushrooms that his views on this fantastic fungus changed forever. It was so profound that he even left his office job to begin growing mushrooms himself.
So whether you’re a mushroom head, or just looking for a rare activity even for domestic tourists, come on down to the Sakura Mushroom Farm to snip, grill, and snack on some shiitake!
*Please note that we took our masks off for the pictures, but the facility still requests that you do your mushroom hunt masked!
Just 10 minutes from JR Sakura Station by car or taxi will put you in mushroom paradise.
2395 Ota, Sakura City
(10 minutes by car from JR Sakura Station)