Nestled among the gentle hills of the Abukuma Mountains in east-central Fukushima Prefecture, the city of Tamura is a heavily-forested escape into a world of nature, history, and health.
Easily accessible from Koriyama Station located along the Tohoku Shinkansen line, Tamura was named after the Tamura clan that once ruled this part of north-eastern Japan after its conquest by Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro, a great warrior and shogun of the Heian Period (794 – 1185). Better known today for its gigantic limestone Abukuma Cave formed over 80 million years ago, Tamura is also an important destination for insect tourism thanks to its large population of rhinoceros and stag beetles. Recently, dynamic Tamura added yet another feather to its already well-adorned cap, slowly building a reputation for itself as the premier producer of wild sesame oil, a superfood with incredible health benefits that you can discover for yourself during the upcoming Tamura Egoma Cooking Trip.
Scheduled to take place from November 25 to November 26, the completely free package tour is aimed at health-conscious travelers who enjoy the finer things in life like oil made from egoma. That’s the Japanese name for wild sesame, also known as perilla, a key theme of the tour that will take 10 adventurers, accompanied by an English-speaking guide, into the heart of Fukushima Prefecture away from the stresses and pollutants of modern life. The Tamura Egoma Cooking Trip combines firsthand cultural experiences with sustainable, healthy eating, and a recuperating dip in onsen waters at the Shiki-no-Yado Tenzui inn where participants will be spending the night.
The tour will allow travelers to visit the Egoma Oil Press Center where they’ll be able to compare different varieties of egoma oil and even participate in its production, helping press a bottle-worth each of the superfood for a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Egoma has a very unique flavor with a pleasantly nutty fragrance and reportedly does wonders for the body, being rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an essential element that helps control cholesterol levels and improves blood pressure. Sources have also claimed that egoma oil contains anti-ageing agents and helps reduce allergic reactions while preventing dementia. Thanks to this, the product has earned itself the nickname “junen,” which means “ten years” because that’s how much consuming the oil can reportedly add to a person’s lifespan.
Egoma has long been cultivated in the mountainous area around Tamura and is now an integral part of its local culture. In January 2023, “Tamura’s Egoma Oil” became the first edible oil registered under the Japan GI protection system that determines which products can be labeled with a specific geographical indication, not unlike how only wine made in one specific region of France has the right to be called “champagne.” The comparison is even more apt considering the high quality of Tamura’s wild sesame oil made from hand-picked egoma seeds that are roasted and later pressed without any additives or any extra refining, thus preserving their nutritional value.
The tour, however, will allow participants to experience egoma in more than just oil form. There will also be egoma sweets and green tea served at the Rensho-an, the atelier of folk painter Watanabe Shunmei, serving as an appetizer before a meal of egoma pasta and tempura made from Abukuma Mountains vegetables. All in all, the tour will provide one breakfast, two lunches, and one dinner for the participants, including different dishes made from egoma as well as Japanese char prepared over an irori hearth at a traditional Japanese house. Besides a feast for the body, the tour will additionally provide a feast for the mind and soul with many cultural experiences around Tamura.
Your visit to Tamura will begin with a kamishibai performance, a traditional form of street mini-theater where a narrator uses illustrated boards to tell stories from Japanese history and myths.
Other fun activities to expect during the Tamura Egoma Cooking Trip include shopping for local Fukushima specialties and making saimochi rice cakes with egoma. Participants are encouraged to take as many photos of their trip through Tamura as they can and post them on their social media accounts with the hashtag #japanexperience_2023.
Interest in the free tour is expected to be high so apply for a spot as soon as possible at https://tamura-egoma.net before the November 9 deadline. In the event that there are too many applicants, allocation will be determined by lottery.