It’s springtime and there are rapeseed blossoms as far you can see. If you step in the flower field, the first thing you notice is the sound. The low buzzing sound is of the innumerable honey bees flying around.
Have you ever tasted Japanese honey? As amazing as it may sound, domestically produced honey enjoys a market share of less than 7% of all the honey sold in Japan.
This time we visited Nakata bee farm, which is located on the Goshikidai Plateau, a region with picturesque views over the Seto Inland Sea, and interviewed Mr. Tanaka, the successor of the farm. In moving to the countryside from a large city rather than to his home region, he did an I-turn and took over the bee farm that belonged to his wife’s family.
We borrow some work clothes, rubber boots as well as a beekeepers hat, and head towards the bee hives. As we get nearer, we can hear a loud buzzing sound, almost as if the mountain is roaring. It’s around the time of the spring equinox, so the bees are starting to wake up from hibernation. The winter has ended, and the season when the insects start moving has come and the honey bees are also flying around energetically.
We open up one of the nest boxes to take a look inside.
The bees get irritated if there are people in front of the hive entrance, so we blow some smoke on the box we chose. Although I was scared thinking that the bees would attack as soon as the box was opened, if they’re opened by people who understand how to handle honey bees, they almost never attack.
I calm down for the time being.
The frame we take out from the box is brimming with bees. I wonder if it’s because they are handled with care, but they don’t look like they are at all interested in attacking us, and stay calm.
The frame was full of honey. I was moved by the beauty of the golden yellow honey, transparent in the sunlight. On the day of our visit, the sun was shining warmly and the bees seemed happy, too. When it’s dark and cold, it’s said that the bees become irritated and sting people easily. Mr. Tanaka laughs and says, “just like humans!”
For my journey home from the bee farm, Mr. Tanaka told me where I could find a spot with amazing views. Naturally the scenery is beautiful on sunny days, but the view of the sea clouded by the spring haze and the silhouettes of the islands look magical, too.
Just like this, days pass and the honey bees at Goshikidai Plateau grow with views of the Seto Inland Sea. How luxurious is that?
If you go down the hill, at its foot you can find the direct sales shop of Nakata bee farm. It’s a small shop with a cute bee on its sign. Inside you’ll find a tasting area, allowing you to find your favorite honey. There is no “standard” honey flavor; the seasons, flowers, location, condition of the bees, timing of the harvesting, the way the honey is harvested… According to a combination of numerous factors, the flavor of the honey harvested is limited to that time only.
I experienced it while tasting. According to differences in flower type, the honey flavor may be refreshing or more stimulating, all the flavors are completely different.
“Each time I try my best to harvest the best honey, however, the person who decides which honey is the most delicious is the person tasting it.” This is the answer I got when I asked what a delicious honey is! Even when asking the shop staff, I got the same answer. The honey you like the best is the most delicious honey, they say. It’s a kind of moving story you can’t find in mass production.
While tasting the honey, I found one that I’d never heard of before. Believe it or not, they have onion honey. On further investigation, I found out that it’s a honey particular to Kagawa prefecture. To my surprise, apparently the Kagawa onion variety covers around 60% of the market share of the whole of Japan. Thanks to the gentle climate of Kagawa prefecture, which has little rain, the area is perfect for growing different types of onions.
With its refreshing sweetness followed by the slight spiciness typical of onions, apparently there are many people who look forward to this honey, which is harvested annually starting in around June.
The honey from Nakata bee farm can be purchased from their direct sales shop, other direct sales shops within the prefecture, and from Ritsurinan among other places. However, as it’s a rare kind of honey that isn’t harvested in great enough quantities to be sold on a country-wide scale, it’s rarely found outside the prefecture.
By the way, in addition to making honey, the bee farms have another important job. They lend honey bees to farms to help pollinate vegetables and fruit. The hard-working bees are an essential part of farming and help in the development of agriculture.
In spring, cherry blossom honey is in season. Depending on the differences in surrounding vegetation, flavors can differ according to region!
Do come by and have a taste of the delicious honey made by Kagawa honey bees!
Nakata Bee Farm
Location: 105-6 Nakayama.cho, Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture
Closed: Every 1st Sunday of the month
Setouchi Finder Photo-writers:
Text: Tomoko Kawai (Dream Network Activity)
Photographs: Takabumi Yanagisawa (Dream Network Activity)
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