Yamashita Shinjuen was established about 80 years ago by the first owner, Shinichi Yamashita, to sell tea and vegetables in the Fugenji area in the mid-hills, south-west of Kyotanabe City, Kyoto Prefecture. As soon as the second owner, Toshikazu Yamashita, finished his studies, the father and son started making gyokuro together. The two explored improvements in soil and variety in order to grow the best gyokuro of all.
He was succeeded by the second generation, Toshikazu, who chemically analysed and theorised the cultivation of gyokuro, and this knowledge spread throughout the tea-growing regions of Japan. He cycled tens of kilometres to Kyoto Prefectural University to carry out his analysis, and his professors were so enthusiastic that they had to leave him alone. Even today, the knowledge and skills of the tea farmers and the regions where they grew tea under Toshikazu’s tutelage continue to support Japanese tea.
The father and son, the first and second generation, would win the title of winner, the “Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize”, a total of 21 times at national, Kansai and Kyoto tea fairs.
The two men pursued the unique taste of Gyokuro and blended their own tea leaves in the golden ratio in order to convey the excellence of Gyokuro to many people, and the Gyokuro was their signature product, “Dew of Shinju”. However, with the passing of Shinichi, the first generation, “Shinjuen” was closed for a while.
The third (and current) owner, Shinki, learnt traditional gyokuro making from the second owner, Toshikazu, but also trained in rival production areas in Fukuoka and Shizuoka. This enabled him to acquire knowledge and skills in innovative cultivation and tea making. Following the retirement of Toshikazu, the second generation of the family, we reopened the “Shinjuen” to show the charm of “Yamashita Gyokuro” to our modern customers.
Introduction of the gardeners
The first owner of the garden
Second generation garden owner
Third generation garden owner
We were awarded the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize for the third consecutive time at the 73rd Kansai Tea Fair. The awarding ceremony is the moment when we receive the notification of our efforts in tea production, as my grandfather, Toshikazu, always said, and I think it is the same joy as receiving all 5 when I was a student, which is far from me.
There are so many meanings in what my grandfather said to me, and as I work in the tea garden, making and finishing tea, I feel connected to what he said. When I started this job, I didn’t like my grandfather, who was very strict, and it was easy for me to rebel against him and say, “I’m going to surpass him and shut him up! But the more I do, the more I feel his greatness. I don’t know what will happen to the tea garden in the future. I don’t know what will happen to the tea plantation in the future, but when it does, I will treasure my grandfather’s anger, his teachings, his bad times and his scary words as my wisdom.
We will continue to work on the gyokuro cultivation so that it will be something that people can continue to drink forever, inheriting firmly the genuine gyokuro production that my grandfather has made, not the gyokuro production that has adapted to the times.
We will do our best to ensure that the words “Yamashita Gyokuro” do not disappear.