Growing up in Tokyo, hiking was a requirement since 1st grade. Every school trip consisted of hiking related activities, guaranteed. As urbanized as it seems, Japan is surprisingly mountainous and rich in nature. Many mushrooms reside within those areas, usually only accesssible via hiking. When hunting for mushrooms, there are several things to keep in mind, especially in Japan where many of those mountains that are accessible from central Tokyo are regulated by national parks. This is a brief guide to understand and safely/legally enjoy mushroom hunting/picking/hiking.
Q1: Are we allowed to take home whatever when we go hiking?
A1: Check the rules. As I mentioned above, many of the mountains that are available for hiking (e.g. mount Takao) are under strict regulation. Many places do not allow hikers and visiters to touch their wildlife, much less pick them and bring them home. It is important to understand the rules, and follow them. Even if you are not allowed to touch them, you can still enjoy by observing/sketching/smelling/taking photos.
Q2: What to wear?
A1: Long sleeves, long pants is a must. Hiking shoes/hats are preferable. Mushrooms are located in obscure places, and often, you have to climb up or reach into a bush to find them, so the more protected you are, the better off you are. Bring gloves if you are allowed to collect mushrooms.
Q3: What to bring?
A3: Backpacks are usually the most practical way to carry your things especaiily if you are hiking up a trail. Some useful things to have are: a mushroom guide, bug repellent , a knife, compass, newspaper, magnifying glass, rainwear etc. If you are collecting mushrooms, you can carry them around in a plastic bag, but woven baskets are ideal (it prevents mushrooms from getting squashed)
Q4: Where should I look to find them?
A4: Mushrooms prefer moist, dark places. Underneath dead leaves or near tree stumps/dead trees is a great place to start. Certain types mushrooms are known to coexist with certain types of trees, so if you have a detailed guidebook with you, utilize that to find them. It is harder to find them when it is dark, so go picking on a sunny day or early in the morning. Know that mushrooms are only the reproductive system of fungi, and mycelliums are their main body which is rooted underground.
Q5: How do I pick them?
A5: Once you find a mushroom, observe the condition of the mushroom using a picture guide and mark the surrounding. Even if the mushroom is edible, it can cause food poisoning if it is old or in a bad condition. Best to wrap them with a newspaper, categorizing them by location. When you are picking them, make sure you don’t accidentally damage the tree/soil. If the mushroom is buried in a ground, lightly hold on to the bottom of the gill and slowly pull it out. If the mushroom is attached to a tree, carefully use your knife to cut off the mushroom from the stem.
Q6: How do I bring them home?
A6: Before you go home, make sure none of them is poisonous (if unsure, do NOT bring them home), or moldy (it can spread to others). Scrape off as much dirt as possible to avoid work later. Mushrooms are easily damaged, so carry them seperately or have a cushion that will buffer out any external pressures.
Q7: Method of preservation?
A7: There are 4 ways to preserve a mushroom. First is to freeze dry. This will last for a couple of months, and it is extremely easy to do. Next is to simply dry it out in the sun, and preserve it in a dark location. This is time consuming, but it could add flavor to certain types of mushrooms. Another way is to boil and stuff it in a glass jar, leaving no air inside. This method can be applied to majority of the mushrooms, but the con is that it takes up a lot of space. Last is to preserve it in a salt jar. (not recommended) Not only is it nauseating to think about having to de-salt is every time you use it, it is beyond antiquated.