I was surprised to learn that wasabi is grown in a hot spring area in Hokkaido.
"We began growing wasabi in 1913. My grandfather came to Noboribetsu as a doctor, and it started when he found this mountain stream and had the idea of growing wasabi as herbal medicine," said Nobuo Fujisaki showed me his wasabi cultivation site.
At first glance, the place seems to be in its natural state, but an elaborate wasabi plantation has been created there. Stones placed at regular intervals along with the seedlings protect them and control the force of the flowing water. The surrounding trees are also cared for, and they maintain sunlight and ventilation. This plantation is like a condensation of Japanese people's wisdom on leveraging nature. That plantation, created 100 years ago, is still being used to raise wasabi.
Wasabizuke (pickled wasabi), a specialty product of Noboribetsu-onsen, has been sold since 1915. The first generation of wasabizuke was conceived of as a souvenir. "Customers notice even a slight change in the recipe, so we cannot change the way it tastes," Fujisaki said.
Full-fledged marketing of Fujisaki wasabizuke began with Nobuo Fujisaki's generation. It is served as a garnish to meals at a hotels in Noboribetsu-onsen, which helps its reputation for good flavor and its name recognition. Fujisaki says that because hotels in Noboribetsu-onsen help him in this way, he wants to keep producing products that will make customers want to return to Noboribetsu-onsen. Hotel management note that the wasabi is grown in Noboribetsu-onsen, and say they want to serve products that will make customers want to return to Noboribetsu-onsen.
Several years ago, Fujisaki Wasabi Farm launched a new product — Wasabi Cream Cheese — to mark its 100th anniversary. It is the culmination of an effort to create a cream cheese that goes well with wasabizuke. They brought the saltiness of the cream cheese to a minimum, and created a recipe that harmonizes the spiciness of wasabi with the delicious flavor of cheese. Wasabi Cream Cheese is so popular production cannot keep up with demand.