Saturday, June 15, 2019

Niseko: A Snowboarding Foodie's Dream Come True









We say that we went to Hokkaido to snowboard on our Ikon Pass, but we really just needed an excuse to go to Japan to eat the amazing food there.  Hokkaido may be detached from the main island and over 500 miles away from Tokyo, but the high standards for food here are no different.  The pride that the chefs, bakers, and bartenders take in their work is reflected every step of the way, from conception to execution.  For five full days, we enjoyed so much good food in between rounds of shredding the tree-lined slopes of the Niseko United ski area.  





Niseko is a small resort town on the huge island of Hokkaido.  While the area is indeed relegated to a lot of international tourism because of its popular ski resort, we were able to pick out some great authentic spots to eat, drink, and be merry.  The food of Hokkaido is, like most Japanese food, impeccable and at the same time, very comforting and nutritious--exactly the kind of stuff you'd crave after a day on the slopes.  There's nothing like unclipping your snowboard and sitting down to a big bowl of ramen or chirashi.  Local markets a few shuttle stops away in nearby Kutchan offer delicacies that are Hokkaido-renowned: hairy crab, sashimi, artisan cheese, and even those mysterious white strawberries.  A famous milk farm not far away churns out fresh dairy products, including ice cream and drinking yogurt.  We followed in Anthony Bourdain's footsteps to eat handmade soba noodles at a Michelin-recognized restaurant.  We also found our way to working-class comforts, like chanko hotpot tenderly prepared by a retired Sumo wrestler and his wife, and steaming bowls of oden served late at night over a bar by a lone cook.  Even the little coffeeshop and the bar that we stepped into were both uniquely curated by passionate owners, and supported by a diverse local community.  We enjoyed every one of these eating and drinking experiences because they brought us closer to the people who live there.  Essentially, we went to Niseko for the snow, but we stayed for the culture.