Kuromatsunai: The town with the beech forest

KUROMATSUNAI

2020.10.12

The town of Kuromatsunai is located in Southern Hokkaido. This charming little town surrounded by a precious beech forest somehow manages to be both in the middle of nowhere, and on the meantime conveniently right between the popular Hokkaido travel destinations Niseko and Hakodate.  

Alongside the beech forest, there are gushing rivers and agricultural land in Kuromatsunai. Both the forest and the farm lands get their energy from the clear ground water of the area. The water of Kuromatsunai is quality-material: it is even turned into bottled mineral water and sold under the brand name Suisainomori. Along with the clear mineral water, fresh tofu made of local soybeans and fish caught in the area are some famous products of Kuromatsunai.

A town surrounded by a beech forest

Kuromatsunai is biogeographically a unique and nationally valuable area; the town happens to be the northernmost point in the whole of Japan, where Siebold’s beech – also known as Japanese beech or “buna” – survives. The beech forest in Kuromatsunai has been designated as an Important Cultural Property by the state of Japan.

The forest has always been there in the background, and it has naturally been intertwined with the local way of life since forever. However, it was not until the late 1980s that the importance of the beech forest was truly noticed. The people of Kuromatsunai have since then educated themselves and worked hard for the recognition of the forest. They are now sharing their knowledge and providing recreational activities also for visitors. This way the beech forest has become part of the local identity and economy that was for a long time heavily dependent on agriculture only.

Among the beech trees you can feel the untamed pulse of nature, and the change of the seasons. It is as if the time has stopped here, and still the forest is never the same. Be it the vibrant early summer green, the bright yellow in the peak of autumn or the silence of the forest sleeping under a white cover of snow, the captivating woods make Kuromatsunai a truly enchanting travel destination.

Fascinating encounters

Another aspect that makes Kuromatsunai an ultimate destination worth a visit, is the warmth of the local people, who have worked hard for their hometown and are always welcoming and eager to share their lifestyle with travelers. One of the fascinating individuals who have decided to live their lives in this beautiful town, is Mr. Homma, a Hokkaido born local nature guide now in his forties. 

Even before Mr. Homma became a nature guide in Kuromatsunai, he has been leading an interesting life. He studied economics in Japan, but some time after graduating he was strongly inspired by the art of Pablo Picasso, and decided to do something completely different with his life: study art abroad. Mr. Homma, now fluent in English, ended up living 10 years in Great Britain, studying art and later on working in art and travel business. 

After finally returning back to Japan, Mr. Homma found his way back to his homeland Hokkaido. Later some tricks of fate led him to Kuromatsunai, where he became a nature guide and got involved in the local movement promoting education and outdoor activities surrounding the beech forest. Mr. Homma, who still loves art and creativity, has lived in Kuromatsunai for almost 10 years now and hopes he can spend the rest of his life in this beautiful town.

Deep travel in harmony with nature

As if getting to know Mr. Homma and having a little nature adventure in the northernmost beech forest of Japan was not enough, there is still plenty to do and lovely local people to meet. One recommended way to take in the atmosphere of Kuromatsunai is to explore the town by a bicycle with a local guide. The guide will introduce you to some small but unique local shops and tell you about the everyday life of this little town in North Japan.

Nothing makes you feel alive like some light exercise in a new environment and meeting inspiring townspeople. If you would rather enjoy your silence, you can let a local show you to the best fishing spots and allow your mind to wander, waiting for the fish to bite. If you are lucky and patient enough to catch plenty, the fish can be grilled for a nice lunch the local way.

Local foods and experiences that can only be had here

The locals are constantly coming up with new innovative ways to let visitors into the heart of their beloved town. Soybeans are one example of the products cultivated in Kuromatsunai. Tofu that is made out of soy milk is actually one of the famous local Kuromatsunai products.

The Kuromatsunai locals know how to make tofu out of soybeans, and you are also welcomed to join them for an interesting little cooking session. The soybeans are used as whole, which makes fresh tofu an ultimate health food, packed with protein and calcium.

We warmly welcome you to the town of Kuromatsunai in Southern Hokkaido to explore Japan’s northernmost beech forest, taste the clear ground waters and meet inspiring local people. If you feel Kuromatsunai could be your next unique travel destination, please let us know when you contact us. Exquisite cultural experiences, refreshing recreational activities and the local lifestyle are waiting!

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