Saimyoji is an area in Nishiki Town, Semboku City. Saimyoji-guri （西明寺栗）is a chestnut species known as the largest chestnut of Japan.
|Saimyoji-guri (Photo/Semboku City)|
It is said that Lord Satake of Akita Clan has brought chestnut seeds from Tanba (Kyoto) and Mino (Gifu), and promoted the cultivation in Kitaura Area, which is now known as Semboku City.
The record shows that the Saimyoji-guri used to be called “Kitaura no Kuri” (Chestnut from Kitaura) and had been dedicated to the Lord of Akita during the Enpo and Genroku Era (1673 – 1703) and sometimes even in place of Nengumai (Annual Tax Rice).
What it is proud of is the size – the largest in Japan! The large size (L) would measure over 3 cm/ 1.18 in and weighs about 25 – 30 g / 0.88-1.5 oz! Imagine it could be as big as a infant’s fist. Quite impressive!
A champion of the Annual Samiyoji-guri All Japan Competition has brought a huge one that was about 5.7 x 4.7 cm/ 2.2 x 1.9 in and 66g / 2.23 oz!
|Size of an infants' fist! (Photo/Semboku City)|
The nut is rather yellow and starchy with a delicious taste; the inner skin is thin; boiling hardly makes it mushy – therefore, it is often favored in Shibukawani, a dish in which chestnuts are cooked in syrup with the inner skin fully intact.
Such delicious dishes are being offered at restaurants around Semboku City during the harvesting season.
Why So Rare?
Regular chestnuts are harvested by shaking the trees, making the spiny cupules fall, from which the brown hard nuts were collected; however, Saimyoji-guri is so large and dense that is waited until they fall from the trees on the natural gravity!
That is why, to prevent the pests from damaging the fully ripe nuts, the farmers mown and take care of the orchard field very carefully.
The great quality of Saimyoji-guri has been attracting a lot of people. It is often questioned why they are not produced on larger scale to make it more available at markets for consumers.
It is because today there exit no more than a few orchards, and barely maintained by the veteran farmers. Cultivating each Saimyoji-guri tree and maintaining its quality cost enormous amount of care and efforts, so that the new farmers have been steered away. That is what makes the species so rare!
|Katakuri, Dogtooth Violet, blooms in the Chestnut Orchards! (Photo/Semboku City)|
The Orchard is Full of Chestnuts in Autumn and Dogtooth Violets in Spring:
While the trees there bares the delicious nuts in autumn, the fields are covered with beautiful vibrant purple flowers in spring – Katakuri, Dogtooth Violet, is the name of flowers.
Katakuri (Also called “Katanko” or “Katakko” in Nishiki) naturally covers the orchards as large as 20 hectare (4.2 times as Tokyo Dome) –that is one of “the Largest in Japan”!
The orchards are mown and maintained so that the soil is very fertile. The chestnut trees also provide the perfect sunlight condition for the Katakuri flowers to spread. Thanks to such efforts by the farmers, we could enjoy both the delicious chestnut and the beautiful flowers.
In the average years, the Katakuri flowers bloom from mid-April to early May.
|Harvesting experience is popular for families. (Photo/Semboku City)|
Chestnut Harvesting Experience:
The orchards are open to the public for harvesting experiences.
Kyunosuke Kuri-en (久之助栗園)
Entrance Fee: 200 yen (Adult) /100 yen (Under 12)
Take-Home: 800 yen/kg
Sasaki Kuri-en (佐々木栗園)
TEL: 0187-47-3046 (Reservation is required.)
Entrance Fee: 200 yen
Take-Home: 800 yen/kg