Using the surrounding mountains and forests as a source of food has been a tradition in Snow Country for as long as humans have been here. It is still an integral part of life in the region, and the beautiful fall colors that are around at the moment also signal that there will be an abundance of mushrooms below those leaves.
As part of the Snow Country Gastronomy Tourism initiative we went out on a mushroom hunting tour in Sakae Village. Our group met at the lovely Shinano-sou in Tsunan, a ryokan right on the bank of Japan’s longest river. We then drove across the border into Nagano Prefecture and headed up into the mountains of Sakae Village.
Our friendly local guide gave us a crash course in mushrooming, telling us which types we were likely to find, which ones to ignore, the best places to look, as well as a few general safety pointers. He was always within shouting distance and ready to bound over and identify whatever we had found. It wasn’t long before our bags started to fill up with several different types of delicious mushrooms. Your eyes soon become accustomed to the forest scenery and it becomes easier to pick out the telltale signs. You’ll suddenly look up to see a tree absolutely covered in mushrooms, and you just have to hope they are within reach, either of your arms or with the aid of a fallen branch.
After visiting two different areas, and with a huge haul of goodies we drove up to a look-out point not far from Sakae Club Ski Field. It had amazing views of the valley below in its fall colors, and the mountains in the distance. There was even some snow on Mount Naeba.
A picnic area was quickly set up and a wild mushroom soup was soon on the boil with everyone pitching in with the preparations. This was served with rice balls, and tasted amazingly good to the hungry mushroom hunters. Food does not get better than this!