Sapporo’s Gastronomic Adventure: A Symphony of Local Flavors and Hakkenzan’s Finest Wines



Sapporo: Where Nature and City Life Coalesce

 Sapporo, situated on the west coast of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s islands, proudly serves as the prefectural capital. Boasting a population of nearly two million, it ranks as the fifth-largest city in Japan, following Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya. Not only known for its large population but also for its expansive area, Sapporo is a city that combines urban living with abundant nature.

 With plenty of spots to enjoy nature in the city, getting your fill of adventure in Sapporo is easy. The city center is adorned with sprawling parks that invigorate and refresh both body and mind. One such gem is the renowned Odori Park, where you can revel in cherry blossoms during spring, lilacs in summer, and the vibrant hues of autumn foliage. Adjacent to Sapporo Station, the extensive campus of Hokkaido University unfurls, featuring attractions like lotus-filled ponds, a poplar-lined avenue, and the enchanting autumn colors of ginkgo trees.

 Thanks to numerous street trees and parks, the presence of nature accompanies you wherever you go in the city. Venturing beyond the city’s hustle and bustle, you’ll find yourself surrounded by forests and mountains without ever leaving the urban landscape. To the south of the city, just an hour’s drive away, lies Jozankei, a charming hot spring resort in the Sapporo suburbs. As a one-day getaway near the city, Jozankei not only provides a rejuvenating experience through its thermal waters but also boasts various other attractions.

 In a serene atmosphere away from urban chaos, you can indulge in leisurely nature walks with family or friends, partake in active experiences, and relish moments of tranquility. Blessed as it is with distinct seasons, you can enjoy beautiful landscapes and events throughout the year, making it a town of rich natural experiences. Since 1972, Sapporo has gained global recognition by becoming the first city in Asia to host the Winter Olympics.

 Renowned for its heavy snowfall, Sapporo is one of the few metropolises in the world with such heavy snowfall, enabling it to hold the Sapporo Snow Festival, where intricate ice and snow sculptures transform the city into a winter wonderland. Since the naming of this land as Hokkaido and the establishment of the Hokkaido Development Commission in 1869, Sapporo has evolved into a planned city and the central hub of Hokkaido.

 The grid road system remains an enduring symbol of Sapporo. Several historical buildings of significance have endured, including the drill hall of the former Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University), recognized as a national important cultural property and renowned for the iconic Clock Tower. Another noteworthy attraction is the former Hokkaido government red brick office building, and they both serve as prominent tourist destinations.

 Sapporo invites visitors to explore its unique blend of tradition, innovation, and the warm spirit of Hokkaido hospitality. Furthermore, serving as the logistical hub of Hokkaido, Sapporo gives rise to a diverse culinary culture, nurtured by the arrival of freshly harvested vegetables, fruits, and seafood from across the region. While Sapporo has gained renown for its iconic dishes such as ramen, Jingisukan (Hokkaido-style lamb BBQ), soup curry, sushi, and various seafood specialties, it has also earned acclaim for its distinctive French and Italian cuisine.

 Crafted by chefs drawn to a rich array of ingredients, this culinary landscape showcases the city’s versatility. Numerous restaurants contribute to this culinary tapestry by skillfully presenting dishes that emphasize the abundance of locally sourced produce from Hokkaido.

From Fields to Seas: A Historical Gastronomic Journey in Hokkaido

 Nestled between three oceans—the Sea of Japan, the Pacific Ocean, and the Sea of Okhotsk—each boasting distinct currents, Hokkaido emerges as a seafood haven. This northern Japanese island is a veritable treasure trove of aquatic delights, and is a leading producer of salmon, trout, hokke (Atka mackerel), scallops, and kelp.

 Coupled with vast inland plains, the region boasts abundant dairy and farming resources. With a remarkable food self-sufficiency rate exceeding 200%, Hokkaido proudly stands as the epicenter of Japan’s culinary ingredients. Renowned for producing the highest-quality raw milk and butter in the country, Hokkaido leads Japan in the production of various crops, including potatoes, carrots, onions, corn, radishes, wheat, soybeans, and azuki beans.

 As the seasons unfold, so does the freshness of Hokkaido’s bounty. The region experiences a dynamic shift in weather across the year, giving rise to a unique array of seasonal ingredients. Certain seafood varieties, in particular, make fleeting appearances, enhancing the anticipation for these limited-time culinary delights.

 While Sapporo does not directly face the ocean, the Central Wholesale Market, located about 3 km away from the downtown area, serves as a bustling hub where diverse culinary treasures from all over Hokkaido converge. Sapporo, often referred to as the “Kitchen of the North,” draws people from the restaurant industry seeking to purchase seafood. This market is where all the fish are gathered, allowing you to savor seasonal treasures that showcase the very essence of Hokkaido’s ever-changing culinary landscape. These fresh and abundant ingredients form the cornerstone of the city’s dynamic and vibrant food scene.

 Widely acclaimed as a leading agricultural powerhouse in Japan, Hokkaido, and specifically Sapporo, have a fascinating history regarding agriculture. Established by the Japanese government in 1869 to develop the region, the Hokkaido Development Commission set up the Sapporo Agricultural College. This institution introduced Western agricultural techniques, fostered talent, and stimulated agricultural growth in the expansive and cold region. The initiative led to the importation of numerous seeds from other countries and the initiation of trial cultivation. Staple crops such as onions and apples began large-scale production in Sapporo, gradually expanding their influence across Hokkaido. The Sapporo-Ki onion variety, now a signature vegetable brand of Sapporo, is renowned for its thick and tender texture, with enhanced sweetness when cooked.

 Despite the reduction in agricultural land due to urbanization and increasing residential demands, Sapporo continues to play a pivotal role in urban agriculture. It provides residents with fresh, safe, and high-quality agricultural products, extending beyond vegetables to include rice, fruit trees, fruits, flowers, dairy, pork, and poultry.

 Within this enchanting urban center, we’re thrilled to introduce a distinctive gastronomic tour that revolves around the concept of minimizing food miles—the distance food travels from production to consumption. This initiative plays a crucial role in building a more sustainable food system, positively influencing the environment, economy, and the well-being of consumers. By championing locally grown and produced food, it not only reduces carbon emissions from transportation but also strengthens support for regional agriculture.

 Nowadays, there’s a heightened awareness of the critical importance of food sustainability and the resilience of social infrastructure. To address these concerns, we’ve designed a special tour that allows you to experience the concept of food mileage-zero, perfectly aligned with the needs of our era.

Embark on a journey to explore the enchanting southern region of Sapporo with our exclusive tour to Hakkenzan, nestled amidst breathtaking natural surroundings bridging the downtown area and Jozankei. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to indulge in the extraordinary flavors that the current season has graciously bestowed upon us in Sapporo.

Savoring Nature: Exploring Mt. Hakkenzan and the Hakkenzan Winery

 Just a 40-minute drive from downtown, Mt. Hakkenzan (八剣山), positioned along the route to Jozankei (定山渓), holds a special place of prominence. Officially named Kannoniwayama (観音岩山), its eight sword-like peaks have earned it the moniker “Hakkenzan.”

 With a modest height of 498 meters, the summit can be reached in about an hour and is considered relatively easy for climbing beginners, though caution is advised in narrow sections. As you traverse the steep rocks that are visible from below on the way to the top, you’ll experience a delightful blend of Sapporo’s cityscape and nature. The trail to the summit boasts diverse terrains, encompassing forested areas and rocky slopes, providing climbers with a varied and engaging experience. Once at the top, you’re rewarded with a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view, making it a cherished destination for many hikers and climbers over the years.

 At the foot of Mt. Hakkenzan lies a 7-hectare field and orchard producing cherries, strawberries, and vegetables. This region offers diverse year-round experiences, including fruit picking, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding, and a winter-operating campsite, making it popular among visitors.

 Exploring the Hakkenzan orchard on horseback provides a rhythmic and invigorating experience, allowing both body and soul to refresh in the crisp air and fresh green forest of spring and summer. Enjoy the stunning beauty of vibrant foliage in autumn, and in winter, synchronize your breath with the horse’s as you glide through the pristine, snow-covered terrain, experiencing a truly refreshing sensation.

 During the snowy season, immerse yourself in the enchanting landscape of Hakkenzan Orchard with snowshoes. Wandering through the snow-enhanced forest reveals a world of wonders. You might encounter footprints left by local animals like rabbits and foxes and listen to the calls of wild birds in the tranquil forest. The contrast with the distant mountains creates a unique natural spectacle exclusive to this season. The snow formations covering bird nests and tree branches may present an entirely different landscape from summertime. The interplay of sunlight filtering through the forest, casting a world in white and gray, provides a special time unique to Hokkaido’s winter.

 Blessed with a distinctive microclimate and topography, Hakkenzan Winery began operations in 2011 after three years of viticulture research at the mountain’s base. Utilizing grapes and apples from their orchards and those grown in Hokkaido, the winery crafts locally-produced wines with over 25 grape varieties in experimental cultivation. The wines, deeply connected to the region, boast a rich individuality.

 The flagship series of wines, KANONZ, named after Hakkenzan’s alternative name “Kannoniwayama,” includes not only varietals but also expertly blended wines. These blends are meticulously crafted to convey the unique character of the vineyard. The dam-aged red wine within the KANONZ series matures inside the construction tunnel of the Hoheikyo Dam, which is located near the winery and renowned as one of Japan’s most beautiful dams. This location ensures a stable environment with minimal vibration, temperature, and humidity fluctuations. Released annually, this wine has developed a dedicated following, often selling out within one to two months.

 The winery boasts an adjoining gallery that presents exhibitions inspired by the splendid local nature, created by artists from the region. Amidst the ever-shifting vistas of Hakkenzan across the seasons, this establishment provides a distinctive chance to appreciate the terroir of Hakkenzan. This experience is further enriched by the artistic essence that defines the region, creating a harmonious blend of nature and local culture.

 The Hakkenzan Kitchen & Marché, opened in 2020, features a restaurant dedicated to local ingredients and a market offering fresh vegetables and processed agricultural products from nearby farms. Indulge in delicious and nutritious dishes expertly paired with their selection of wines. The Marché showcases a variety of wines, jams, flavorful syrups, and ciders made from their fruits, as well as sausages and eggs from neighboring farms. Taking a leisurely stroll around the expansive grounds, coffee or gelato in hand, while admiring Mt. Hakkenzan is a delightful recommendation. For those seeking more active pursuits, the vineyard offers well-maintained walking paths, making Nordic walking and winter walks with snowshoes highly enjoyable.

 This locale provides a nature-centric experience in close proximity to the city. Embarking on a BBQ adventure with locally sourced ingredients, where the concept of “food miles-zero” becomes tangible, ensures a delightful and unforgettable experience.

Sapporo’s Apple Odyssey: Cultivating a Legacy in Cold Climes

 During this tour, we had the delightful opportunity to engage in apple picking at Hakkenzan Orchard on a splendid, sunlit morning. In the clear skies and crisp air, engaging in the harvest with the farmer became a truly special experience.

 The high-quality Japanese apples, not only delicious but also visually stunning, have garnered significant popularity globally. The recognition of Japanese apples as artworks compared to foreign varieties is a testament to continuous efforts in breeding improvement. Each apple carries a long and storied history.The current Japanese variety, known as Fuji, is celebrated for its excellent taste and superior storage capabilities. Now, it is cultivated not only in China and the United States but also in the Southern Hemisphere.

 While apples are a fruit grown worldwide, cultivation in Japan commenced approximately 150 years ago in 1871, when they were imported from the United States for experimental purposes. Official cultivation began in Sapporo in 1875. Apples were recommended as a crop that thrives well in cold regions, and they bore fruit successfully a few years later. Apples thrived even in years when rice could not due to frost damage, becoming an essential new crop in the cold weather of Hokkaido.

 Since then, apples, recognized for their high nutritional value, long-term storage capability, and high market value, have been exported beyond Hokkaido. Sapporo-produced apples, available even during the winter months when fresh produce is scarce, quickly gained a reputation even in mainland Japan, leading to widespread apple cultivation throughout various parts of Sapporo.

 One of the charms of this tour is the opportunity to delve into the history of locally produced food through personal experiences.

It’s BBQ time! : A Gastronomic Adventure

 After a delightful warm-up with a hands-on apple harvesting experience, the much-anticipated BBQ session begins! Set against the backdrop of the glorious autumn weather, this marks the commencement of an exclusive tour experience unique to this locale.

 In the heart of Hakkenzan Orchard, where the setting is nothing short of extraordinary, providing an ideal space to immerse yourself in the richness of local gastronomy, the BBQ professionals have meticulously curated an outstanding menu. They have prepared everything perfectly and are waiting for you to savor the following delights:

・ Finger foods

・ Grilled seasonal vegetables

・ Baguette or rice with seasonal toppings

・ Wood plank grilled seafood

・ Roasted beef from Hokkaido University’s Shorthorn cattle

・ S’mores style fruit and marshmallow

 Honey harvested from bees thriving atop high-rise buildings in downtown Sapporo, artisanal cured ham, and bread crafted from locally-grown wheat named Yumechikara and homemade natural yeast, proudly grace the menu courtesy of the esteemed local bakery, La・vista. Meticulously curated by our coordinator, the menu is thoughtfully aligned with the seasons, emphasizing the use of locally sourced ingredients. Notably, among the grilled seasonal vegetables, you’ll discover the iconic Sapporo-Ki onion, a signature vegetable brand synonymous with Sapporo.

 On this particular day, special seasonal dishes were featured, such as plank BBQ salmon, known as “Akiaji (秋味)” in Japanese, meaning “Autumn Taste”. The menu also included soup curry infused with local seafood and a delightful baked apple, freshly picked in the morning, accompanied by a scoop of ice cream – offerings specially tailored to meet the requests of guests on this day.

 The salmon is prepared in the plank barbecue style that has gained popularity recently. Unlike the conventional method of grilling ingredients directly over open heat, plank BBQ involves placing them on a wooden plank for cooking. The smoke generated from the smoldering plank imparts a distinctive flavor, offering a barbecue experience with a smoky aroma reminiscent of smoked foods.

 The beef is sourced from Hokkaido University’s Shorthorn cattle, raised in a sustainable land-use production system. This breed, well-suited for grazing, is given only a quarter of the grain typically provided to beef cattle. Furthermore, they are fed grain from Hokkaido, making them genuinely Hokkaido-produced cattle. The manure from these cattle serves as fertilizer for grasslands and fields. With a firm texture and a rich umami that deepens with each bite, the beef is a notable highlight.

 Indulge not only in delectable dishes but also in the perfect wine pairings selected from the Hakkenzan Winery. Let the unique wines, crafted from grapes rooted in Hakkenzan’s soil and complemented by wonderful ingredients, allow you to truly immerse yourself in the essence of Hakkenzan. It will be a fantastic experiment, blending local foods with Hakkenzan wines in a perfect “mariage.”

 The BBQ professionals guide you through a diverse array of seasonal local ingredients, demonstrating how to create an exquisite dish together. Collaborating with these experts to cook adds another distinctive layer to this encounter. Presented by these seasoned professionals, the experience encapsulates the quintessence of Hokkaido’s culinary heritage, spotlighting premium, locally sourced ingredients unique to Sapporo. Are you ready to savor the richness of nature and embark on a gastronomic journey? The BBQ grills are ignited, the wines are uncorked, and the scenic beauty of Mt. Hakkenzan awaits. Don’t miss out on this unique gastronomic adventure! Secure your spot today – reach out to us for reservations and let the culinary journey begin.