Enjoying Hokkaido’s winter – Home cooking and farm visit in Kuromatsunai
by Shungo Hanaoka
About 3 hours by car from Sapporo. I visited the city of Kuromatsunai, located in the upper part of Oshima Peninsula. The population of Kuromatsunai is approximately 3,000 people. It’s an agricultural city. In Japan, it’s known as “the northernmost city where the beech forest lies.” I went along with a traveler from Hong Kong, who was driving a rental car.
We met with a local guide in a roadside station. We are having lunch at a farm restaurant called “Wagatsuma”, located in the outskirts of the city. Ms. Ichiko Wagatsuma, who heralds the “hospitality from the valley”, managed a ryokan (Japanese-style hotel) for many years and decided to open a Japanese food restaurant here, a place that used to be a crop field. She runs it along with her son.
The menu is based on simple home-made food. The home-made pesticide-free vegetables are served with a simple and tender dressing. The rice is, obviously, “Rankoshi Rice.” The neighbour city of Rankoshi is a famous rice producer; the rice harvested here is a brand product that got the first place in a national food contest in the past. A delicious rice with a shining gloss.
The menu of that day was fried mackerel caught in the sea of Japan and lots of vegetables. Beside the items on the picture, there’s an dessert made with apple too.
The owner (in the middle) and the participants. On the left is the guide Ms. Orui, who lives in Kuromatsunai.
The group then visits a farm house named “Farm Inn Tomita”, which lies in the outskirts of Kuromatsunai. In Mr. Tomita’s house, I rode a snowmobile. Guests can drive it over the potato fields in the backyard. Because it’s in the premises of a private property, no license is required. With just a little of training, you can run along with the wind.
Next is the snow removal experience. Let’s get on board of a tractor and remove the snow of the area.
I try to drive the tractor while Mr. Tomita teaches me how to operate it. I get both surprised and delighted with the loud vibration it makes.
After the experience, we went inside his house and tasted “sweet half sake” and “pork miso soup”. Both are manually made by Mr. Tomita’s wife. The potato in the pork miso soup are May Queen caught in the autumn. It has a soft texture and sweetness that warm up your cold body.
Kuromatsunai lies about midway between Sapporo and Hakodate. It’s also close to the town of Niseko, and about two hours away from lake Toya and Noribetsu Hot Spring!