Location: 120 Shimo asamiya, Shigaraki-cho, Koga-shi, Shiga Prefecture, JAPAN 529-1842
Located in the southern part of Shiga prefecture and the western part of Shigaraki town, Asamiya is a hilly, rural region on the Shigaraki plateau (altitude 400 meters). The temperature change between night and day is drastic in this region creating a climate where mist forms frequently -- an ideal climate for cultivating tea leaves.
In addition, a east-west band about 1 kilometer wide has been confirmed to contain nutrient-rich sediment from Lake Biwa when it was larger in ancient times. The soil is a multi-million-year gift from nature to the tea farmers with whom we work.
There is little wonder then why Asamiya is considered one of the five great ancient tea regions of Japan (the others being Sayama in Saitama, Uji in Kyoto, Shizuoka, and Yamato from Nara).
Asamiya has approximately 60 farmers farming on 120 hectares, and primarily use Yabukita cultivars. However, benifuki, okumidori, saemidori, sayama kaori, sayama midori, okuhikari, and asatsuyu are also cultivars farmed in this region.
History of Asamiyacha
The history of tea from Asamiya, or 'Asamiyacha', is a long one dating back 1200 years to 805 AD when buddhist monk Saichō (known posthumously as Dengyō Daishi) brought seeds back from China and planted them in the mountains of Mount Hiei in Shiga Prefecture. In The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki, 720 AD) and the Ruijū Kokushi (892 AD), there is an account of how the monk Eichu prepared and served tea to the Emperor Saga on the occasion of the Emperor’s royal visit to Ōmi (present day Shiga Prefecture) in the year 815, and, in the same year, tea was planted in Kinai, Ōmi, Tamba, and Harima and presented to the Emperor. It is generally said that the origin of Asamiya tea is the tea planted in the Iwatani-san area at this time. This predates by about 400 years the origins of tea in Uji and Shizuoka when Eisai, founder of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, brought tea seeds back from China.
“Do the tea-pickers also/hidden in the bushes/hear the cuckoo?” is a poem by the haiku master, Matsuo Bashō. The subject is undoubtedly an Asamiya tea field. On his way to Ōtsu in Ōmi at the age of 51, Basho heard the call of the cuckoo announcing the arrival of spring. Although he could not see the cuckoo, its voice carried over the garden of tea buds. Bashō spent his life traveling, but Iga (present day Iga City, Mie Prefecture) was the land of his birth. Also, he dearly loved Ōtsu (Shiga Prefecture), and his grave is there. He had distant relatives at Asamiya, on the journey between Otsu and Iga and there was an inn on the highway. Below the stone path at Iwatani-san Senzen-ji Temple in Kamiasamiya, along with a memorial stone marking the origin of Asamiya tea, a monument to Bashō has been erected.