Took a bus tour down to the Izu Peninsula back in November, in the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan, full of small coastal towns, fresh seafood and blissful onsen. We stopped at Joren waterfall, which is known for their fresh wasabi. Supposedly, this wasabi is especially good because of the clean, cold water from the Joren.
Here's just one part of the wasabi field, which was literally just downstream from the falls.
Sign boasts that this wasabi was introduced on a cooking show as Japan's #1 fresh wasabi, and that due to limited harvest, it isn't available everyday. The top row is 1100yen (about $11 USD), while the lower row is 700yen (about $7 USD). Unfortunately the sign is cut off, where it explains the reason behind the price differentiation- probably that the top one is more fresh???
Fresh wasabi is a bit of an extravagance, since it's so much more expensive than the powder version. But fresh wasabi is true umami- it is subtle and fragrant unlike the overpowering hotness of the powder stuff. Upscale Japanese restaurants definitely use it more these days by shaving it up and serving it alongside sashimi and sushi.
Remember the lavender soft serve? Try wasabi- it was INTENSE!!!
Thanks Ayagwa and Fuminatto for the sign translation!