So Saturday morning we met at the Tsubata community centre and met about 20 other community members. Our 77 year old co-ordinator (who looked no older than 55, see picture) then split us into picking groups mixing us gaijins with the locals and gave us the lowdown on how to spot a takenoko. Look for a dark brown pointed furry potato looking thing with shoots sprouting out of the top and that's a takenoko (see my pic) Apparently the best takenoko are the ones that are barely visible and the ones sticking out of the ground are probably over-ripe and too hard.
He then warned us to stay with people just in case bears appeared in the forest. Bears?! eek, I didn't know bears roamed Japanese forests!
We then met the cameraman and his journalist sidekick who had shown up to film the event, I'm presuming for a local news channel.
We drove up in convoy to the forest, were given a pick axe cross hoe and trekked up a steep hill into the depths of the forest. Well I think they reccied the site the day before or we just got lucky but there was so much takenoko. Naturally I went for the biggest I could find and over exerted myself trying to chop off these gigantic roots, its actually really hard work! The camera crew decided they were onto a good one and ran over filming me panting and sweating (not quite how I imagined my first TV appaearance to be..) and then turned onto Mike, an American guy who managed to cut his in half in mid chop.
Really satisfying though and within an hour we'd managed to fill our sacks with fresh takenoko. we then went back to the Community centre and were served a gorgeous lunch of takenoko (prepared yesterday) with the usual rice, miso combination and mingled with the locals.
If you get the opportunity of takenoko picking whilst in Japan give it a go, its satisfying work and you can then go and make a gorgeous (and cheap) takenoko gohan (bamboo shoot rice) dish. What are you waiting for, get in that forest!