If you think that matcha is only from Kyoto and you can only have it there, you are totally wrong. In fact among the areas that are particularly recognized for producing the best matcha in Japan such as Uji (Kyoto), Fuji (Shizuoka), there is also Nishio (Aichi). Nishio is one of the top sources of matcha production, responsible of approximately 60% of the matcha sold in Japan. In this article I will introduce you to Nishio City, a brief history and some interesting places.
Also take a look also at this other article where I recommend few places in Nishio where you can enjoy sweets made with matcha.
A brief history
Nishio is located in the south-central part of Aichi Prefecture. The city was founded on December 15, 1953.
The origins of tea in Nishio date back to the 13th century when Shoichi Kokushi, a Zen Buddhist monk, founded the Jissoji Temple (1271) and grew tea bushes on the temple grounds. In that time, matcha was a well-known product both for its exquisite flavor and for its medicinal properties. It was without a doubt the favorite drink of priests and aristocrats of the time. Later, in the first years of the Edo Era, cultivation of tea gradually extended to the entire region.
But the period of highest production of matcha in Nishio began in the Meiji period, around 1872, when Jundo Adachi, the main priest of the Koju-in temple brought with him tea seeds and production techniques from the city of Uji (Kyoto) .
From the beginning, the local producers were able to produce gyokuro (a type of green tea tree grown in the shade) and other high quality teas and then, from the 1920s, the tencha (green tea) production expanded.
Currently, Nishio is known for being not only one of the main cities in the production of matcha, but for having created its own production system.
The Yahagi River that crosses the city and the good climate of the region, make Nishio an area with fertile soil that is very suitable for tea cultivation.
One of the most important features that highlights Nishio’s matcha is its intense green color, a unique aroma, a superior fragrance and a mild flavor. The quality of Nishio matcha is highly recognized throughout the country.
Matcha is famous for its use in tea ceremonies but, today, a large proportion of tencha (green tea) harvest is used to flavor processed foods such as ice cream and confectionery.
Matcha Lab Nishio Idea Teahouse
Our visit begins at the new matcha cafeteria “Matcha Lab”, about 10 minutes walk from Nishio Train Station. Under the slogan “LOVE more MATCHA”, this small cafeteria reopened in February 2018, and offers a varied menu of sweets made with Nishio matcha. This place is a perfect excuse to make a small stop along the way.
122 Nishiki-machi, Nishikiichi, Nishio
From 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m (last order 4:30 p.m)
Closed: Monday (open Monday holidays)
Right next to the Matcha Lab cafeteria, is Shokoso. It is a Kyoto style garden created by the rice merchant Akabusaburo Iwasaki at the beginning of the Showa era. It has two tea houses that are rented for various events. It is small and quiet.
176-1 Kinjocho, Nishio
From 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m
Nishio City History Park (Nishio Castle and Former Konoe House)
The city of Nishio was once a well fortified city. The original Nishio Castle was built during the Kamakura Period in the 13th century. It was known as the Saijo Castle. Ieyasu Tokugawa (feudal lord) ordered its construction around 1585. The castle, built with stone walls, had pits and guard towers, and was a great safe fortress.
During the Edo Era, Nishio Castle was the center of the domain of the city of Nishio, as the economy of the castle village prospered due to the production of rice and tea in the area. However, with the end of the feudal period and the dawn of the Meiji Period, the domains were abolished and the samurai class was abolished. The castle of Nishio gradually fell into disrepair and was dismantled. Only the moats, some stone walls and the remains of a well are still standing.
In 1996, the “Honmaru Ushitora Yagura” tower and the main gate were rebuilt to boost tourism and the Municipal Historical Museum of Nishio was inaugurated with them.
231-1 Kinjocho, Nishio
Open every day.
Former Konoe House
The remains of the old house of the Konoe clan are found inside the Park.
The Konoe clan was a powerful and eminent noble family with a history dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185).
The studio “Shoin” and the tea room “Chashitsu”, are the restored sections of what formerly was the great “Konoe”palace. That was originally built next to the Kyoto Imperial Palace in the Kyoto Gyoen Park.
Despite being only part of what was once a much more sumptuous and formidable structure, the details of the craftsmanship and beauty of the ancient construction techniques are still surprising.
Between the end of March and the beginning of April, it is one of the perfect times to visit the park.
The tea house offers the opportunity to take a break and take a matcha tea with wagashi (a typical Japanese sweet), while sitting on the terrace, appreciating the landscape with the Castle, the garden and the cherry trees. A little note for gourmets of tea: you can ask to prepare the matcha in a golden cup!
231-1 Kinjocho, Nishio
Nishio City Museum
Within the same history park of the city of Nishio, but a bit out of the way, is the Municipal Historic Museum of Nishio.
The museum has a collection of samurai swords and armors, maps of the original castle and numerous historical clocks. Depending on the season, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, such as the exhibition of Japanese Hina dolls in February. Admission is free.
229, Kinjocho, Nishio
From 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m
Surrounding the city there are several small scattered temples and old districts. You can walk these areas, but my recommendation is to rent a bike at the Tourist Office next to the train station (3 hours 300 yen, more than 3 hours 500 yen). Going around by bike will be faster and make it easier to move around the city.
Depending on the time you are traveling, you can spend 1 day visiting the city and visiting the shops and cafes of the matcha sweets. And the second day you can visit the coast and Sakushima Island. Or, you can make a quick visit to the History Park of the city and its surroundings, and then visit the area of the coast and Sakushima Island.
By train (54 min.).
From the Nagoya Train Station, take the Meitetsu train line to Toyohashi to Nishio Station.