Masahiro Hoshino (72), a wasabi farmer, is checking the growth pace by looking at wasabi seeds at his farm in Okutama-cho, Tokyo on May 30, 2022. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

Tokyo: Japanese farmer Masahiro Hoshino began to worry a few months before the typhoon season began, suffering from heavy rains and landslide memories that swept the wasabi farm during the 2019 storm.

A 70-year-old farmer living in Okutama Town in western Tokyo said, “Recently, the momentum of typhoons has changed completely due to the effects of global warming.”

“Since it happened once, there is no guarantee that it will never happen again.”

Wasabi is a spicy wasabi that is essential for sushi, and when tapped on raw fish slices or buckwheat soup, it is usually cultivated along narrow valley streams, making farms vulnerable to disasters.

Typhoon Hagibis, which landed in eastern Japan in 2019, reduced Okutama’s production by nearly 70% the following year. Due to the need for replanting and careful care, it took nearly three years for the sushi restaurant to recover.

According to experts, global warming not only increases the number and severity of storms, but also affects production by rising temperatures that threaten plant growth.

A lack of wasabi can also endanger traditional Japanese food such as sushi and sashimi, which uses wasabi pepper as opposed to raw fish.

Weather is not the only obstacle faced by wasabi farmers. The declining rural population due to aging means that there is no successor. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, two factors have reduced the production of wasabi grown in clear water, such as the star-named farm, by half in 2005.

Norihito Onishi, the manager of the soba soba shop “Soba Bunch”, is directly affected by the shortage of wasabi and supply problems.

It has long been known for grinding wasabi root to make a spicy paste that can be used as a seasoning for buckwheat noodles. But they almost had to give up on this.

“In the past, I used to add raw wasabi to chilled soba, but now I can’t do it,” says Onishi.

When the store opened 30 years ago, it was rich in wasabi roots, but Mr. Onishi says that it was sometimes not available in the last 5 to 10 years. Precious roots are currently only available in certain types of dishes.

“If this volatile wasabi supply continues, we face a situation where we need to solve the problem in other ways so that various factors such as global warming do not stop providing raw wasabi at all. I will do it, “said Onishi.

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