December Maker’s Story: Yuzu from Umaji Village in Kochi

December Maker’s Story: Yuzu from Umaji Village in Kochi

As winter approaches, so does the vibrant presence of citrus fruits! Yuzu (ゆず) citruses in particular are in season during the colder months in Japan—with its fragrant aroma and unique tarty flavour, it is a popular ingredient in various winter delicacies. Yuzu is also used in hot baths called yuzuyu (柚子湯) where the fruit is believed to help ward off colds and promote good health for those who soak in them.

 

JAPAN RAIL CLUB is proud to have Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative (JA Umaji 馬路村農業協同組合) as one of our Featured Makers this month. As part of the ensemble in JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s December “Merry Citrus” Omiyage Snack Box, we had a chat with Mr. Iwasada (岩貞), Director of Kochi Sales Office, to find out more about the village of Kochi Prefecture (高知県) and its organic production of yuzu citruses.

 


Video by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

 

Nice to meet you, Iwasada-san! Please tell us more about the company and the origins of its founding.

When this company was founded on 15 June 1948, despite 96% of the village being covered by mountain forests, we embarked on the cultivation of yuzu through trial-and-error on terraced fields and steep slopes due to the scarcity of farmland. Umaji Village is known as the Yuzu Village by locals.

 

Yuzu products from Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative
JA Umaji’s exciting product line-up | Photo by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

 

That’s very admirable! Out of all the yuzu products made by JA Umaji, what are some of the company’s best-selling products?

That would be the Yuzu no Mura Ponzu Soy Sauce (ゆずの村ぽん酢しょうゆ) and the Gokkun Umajimura (ごっくん馬路村) Yuzu Drink.


Gokkun Umajimura Yuzu Jelly Drink & Ginger Yuzu Dry
Gokkun Umajimura Yuzu Jelly Drink & Ginger Yuzu Dry | Photo by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

Oh, the Gokkun Umajimura Yuzu Drink comes in a jelly drink form in this month’s Omiyage Snack Box! Could you share with us more about the two products?

Gokkun Umajimura Yuzu Jelly Drink is made to recreate the refreshing and unmistakable taste of Umaji Village's yuzu, blending it with honey to create an innovative textured yuzu jelly beverage.

With the Ginger Yuzu Dry, you get to enjoy the best of Kochi! A collaboration between two of Kochi's representative and popular flavours, the rich aroma of yuzu and the slightly spiced ginger, creates a delightful combination.


Plenty of Yuzu in a factory facility in Umaji Village, Kochi, Japan
Photo by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

 

What are some key features of your company’s products and practices?

Our products are made out of 100% yuzu from Kochi Prefecture. Since its founding, the village's farmers embraced organic cultivation practices, utilizing yuzu residues that are no longer needed during processing as compost, returning them to the soil. Nearly two decades into this circular farming approach, it is no exaggeration to say that we were one of the pioneers of adopting the contemporary SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) philosophy.

Besides, Umaji Village boasts the largest organic cultivation area in Japan, employing practices such as circular organic farming, organic cultivation, and JGAP (Japan Good Agricultural Practice).

 

 

In terms of overseas business, we have sold our products mainly to Southeast Asia, including Singapore. We also have a proven track record in the USA, Europe, Australia, etc.


Yuzu Harvest Festival held by JA Umaji
Yuzu Hajimaru Festival | Photo by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

 

I’m sure that our readers are keen to visit Umaji Village! Are there any attractions or events that visitors should know about?

Every year in November, a yuzu harvest festival called Yuzu Hajimaru Matsuri (ゆずはじまる祭) is held. On this day, the whole village is filled with the smell of yuzu, and visitors from all over the country come to taste grilled ayu (sweetfish) caught in the Yasuda River, which flows through the village, and other local delicacies. 

 

Welcome to Umaji Village, the village of Yuzu!
Photo by Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative

 

Lastly, do you have a message for our readers?

In Umaji Village, there are no convenience stores or hospitals, nor are there traffic lights. Although it is a small village with a population of less than 1,000, it is blessed with great natural beauty. In the summer, ayu dance and eels swim in the Yasuda River.

In winter, the yuzu trees paint the landscape yellow, creating a delightful contrast between green and yellow. There are also occasional flurries of snow. Despite the lack of amenities, Umaji Village is rich in nature and onsen, attracting visitors from all over the country seeking healing and tranquillity. We invite you to visit such a village in Umaji.



From Kochi Station, take the local train on the Dosan Line and Gomen-Nahari Line to Yasuda Station (about 2 hours) and transfer to the Aki-Umaji Yanase Line bus for Umaji Bridge (about 35 minutes). JA Umaji Yuzu no Mori Factory, the main yuzu product facility in Umaji Village, is about a 5-minute walk from the bus stop. Alternatively, it is about a 100-minute drive from Nankoku IC on Kochi Expressway.

Subscribe to JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Snack Box Subscription Plan to try two of Umaji Village Agricultural Co-operative’s yuzu products and other Japanese treats in “Merry Citrus” Omiyage Snack Box, exclusively available in December 2023. Order yours now!

Meet the author

Sue Lynn

Currently based in Tokyo, Sue Lynn first came to Japan as a university exchange student. With 6 years of experience in Japan's inbound tourism, she is familiar with Japan, particularly on rail passes and East Japan spots, and has a passion for travelling.

Sue is also passionate about Japan's thrifting culture, and is keen to uncover more hidden gems while visiting all 47 prefectures during her stay in Japan.

Sue's 5Cs are cats, cameras, cinema, climbing, and city pop. Ask her about how her favourite JR Pass (JR TOKYO Wide Pass) saved her life (and wallet).

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Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers from Akita by Kanaeya
Sue Lynn

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as an example, a prefecture where lush landscapes meet premium rice fields. Renowned for its exceptional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as...

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from Takachiho (Winner of JR East Omiyage Grand Prix 2023 - Koshin’etsu Area Prize)
Sue Lynn

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the perfect souvenir or omiyage (お土産) to bring home for your loved ones and colleagues. While...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the...

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival Celebrating Girls’ Day
Sue Lynn

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the Hina Matsuri | ©photoAC Have you ever heard of Japan’s Hina Matsuri (雛祭)? Otherwise known...

Dawn Sim Culture

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the...

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Through The Eyes of Japanese Writers
Sue Lynn

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of literary giants and look no further than Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島), which lies just about 1-2...

Dawn Sim Travel

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of...

Mount Fuji with tea plantation in the foreground
Sue Lynn

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is Japan’s highest mountain, and has become a symbol of the country, recognised worldwide for its...

Carissa Loh Travel

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is...

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in Japan to Meet Feline Friends
Sue Lynn

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have noticed how beloved cats are over there. Think maneki-neko (招き猫) cat figurines that beckon luck,...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have...

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan
Sue Lynn

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated across the globe where presents like chocolates, candies, and flowers are gifted...

Wendy Ng Culture

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day...

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the Izu Peninsula
Sue Lynn

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your loved one, but where to start? Here are our top five picks for romantic dating...

Carissa Loh Travel

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your...

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo”, Cafes, and the Railway Museum
Sue Lynn

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is the gateway to the neighbouring Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県). It is also a stop on more...

JAPANKURU Travel

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is...