text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba
Firm, sweet and juicy, the strawberries grown by Kazutoshi Murata at his family farm in Ibaraki prefecture are snatched up by high-end ryotei restaurants, hotels, and celebrity patissiers around Japan. Bee pollination and planting are timed so that the first marketable harvest meets the high demand of the festive year-end season, around December 20. Soil analysis, Murata says, is key to a successful crop.
After harvest he plows the plants into the earth along with rice bran, pig manure, rice hulls, and a microbe mix. Then he floods the soil with water and covers it with a tarp for two months.
“This reduces the percentage of unfriendly bacteria, which have low heat resistance,”Murata explains. Fish powder, kombu, and collagen are among the organics that replenish the balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium as necessary.
Soil analysis records at the farm go back 30 years.
（left）The compost mound shrinks in size as it ferments.
（right）Good air circulation is key to berry cultivation. Well water is pumped between the double-ply
greenhouse covers, keeping the temperature within at a steady 15ºC.
The berry tips redden first. Because pollination is left to the bees, even fruit of the same plant ripens at staggered times.
（left）A café on site, open from December to May, serves up strawberry shakes (¥600) and cider (¥500).
（right）Among the takeaway offerings are preserves accented with rum and mint.
Grower Kazuyoshi Murata.