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Lake Akan, which was created by repeated gigantic eruptions 31,000 years ago, today sits calm on the eastern part of Hokkaido. If you take a walk, you find out that the Mother Nature is not sleeping. There are small areas where we can see bubbling mud; volcanic gas escaping from the vent. Anyway, this is the hot spring area.
Lake Akan is famous for Marimo, algae, which build community in three different ways – sphere shape, dense community on the rocks and floating string foams. Lake Akan is very shallow compared to other caldera lakes in Hokkaido. Deepest part is only 44 meters. The eruption ejects, such as ash, pumice….over the years covered the bottom of the lake. When the wind blows algae rolls over the lake floor, entangles each other and creates a ball shaped algae. The growth rate of the ball is only 5mm/year, so it takes 60 years to form an 8-inch size ball.
Lake Akan is studded with typical Japanese hot spring hotels built next each other by the lake. A bus load of tourists arrive at around the same time – check-in time at these hotels is 3pm. Check-out time is 10am after breakfast. Crowd comes and disappears with this specific pattern.
After checked in the hotel, we walked to Ainu Theater and enjoyed the traditional Ainu dances and songs. One of the dances performed mimics red crowned crane’s dance. It is graceful and shows Ainu people’s respect and love to this beautiful bird. One of the objectives of Hokkaido with Hiroko is to learn Ainu people’s culture, tradition and suffering history. We are glad to be there.
Oh…one more; we took soba noodle making class in the heart of buckwheat growing region, Shintoku. What we made became for our lunch. Fetucchini like soba….could be possible!
May 29 Foggy Lake Toya to Furano
I woke up in the morning with fog still covered over the lake. Then, sun gradually pushed it, revealing the magic scenery in front of me. It is still foggy, but the lake with lava dome is distinctive. It is like life. After having hardship, I can appreciate more about what I acquired.
Today we left eastern part of Hokkaido, which is an extension of northeast Japan. We drove through the collision area through Yubari to Furano. If you plant to visit Furano in any occasions (I know you have been here for ski), visit Sumio Goto Museum. Worthwhile. ‘Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1930 to a priest of the Shingon Buddhism school, a painter, Mr. Goto, studied Japanese art under Kyujin Yamamoto at the age of 16 and then under Seihyo Tanaka. In 1952, his work “Fukei” earned him first prize at the Revived Japan Art Academy Exhibition. Subsequently, he won the Taikan Prize and the Prime Minister’s Prize of the Japan Art Academy, establishing himself as a central figure among those belonging to the Japan Art Academy. After teaching young artists as a professor at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music between 1988 and 1997, he made an international contribution as a Dojin member of the Japan Art Academy and professor emeritus at Xian Institute of Art, China, as well as being engaged in creative activities in his studio established as an annex to his museum’. Furano’s expansive nature is the perfect home to Mr. Goto’s dynamic, sensitive and inspiring art works.
The highlight of the day was one of the most talented Japanese chefs, Chef Komatsu’s French dinner. Chef Komatsu was trained under Michel Bras and worked for him when Chef Bras opened his French restaurant at Windsor Hotel Toya, Hokkaido. Chef Komatsu, thank you very much for cooking for US!
Global warming has been changing Hokkaido’s early summer weather; several locals have mentioned it to me. ‘Rain…rain…..’ We were again rained out, so the Lake Toya was in the fog! But we have achieved the below.
- Learn the creation of beautiful Lake Toya out of violent volcano eruption 110,000 years ago
- Visit an organic farm, Saeki Farm, and learn how they grow vegetables organically
- Stay at the hotel which was the home to 2008 G7 Summit; QUESTION – how many can you name the head of the state back then and who remains as the head today?
- Private mortar boat cruising in Lake Toya
- Savor the local Kaiseki meal in the hotel
Saeki farm imports bees from Netherland. These bees were kept in the tomato hot houses to do the pollination of tomato. After two weeks of working bees die and another group after another are imported to continue the work in his hot house until November. Mr. Saeki make sure that these foreign bees never escape into outside. He has Japanese bees which specifically work for Japanese cherry trees.
Noboribetsu and Jigokudani
Day 1 objectives which we have accomplished;
- Learn the Japanese volcano mythology; meet with oni monster
- Hike the geothermal crater, Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
- Learn 9 different hot spring water sources
- Experience foot onsen
- Savor local, seasonal Hokkaido style formal Japanese meal
- Soak in sulfer spring bath at the hotel to heal jet rug
Walking through 24 acre geothermal crater that formed 20,000 years ago was a highlight. Volcanic gas and hot steam seeps from the vents. Hot water in different colors is belching and bubbling. Geyser which shot up hot water every 10 minutes last year ceased its operation this year. Mother Nature never stops moving. Everyone went to bed feeling their skin smooth and tender.
We happily accomplished revised Day 2 objectives in rain;
- Learn about the active volcano Mt. Usu and Showa-Shinzan
- Take a cableway to the top of Mt. Usu
- Take a special permitted tour in the area which is restricted to the visitors – revised: Visit to Volcano Science Museum and Mimatsu
- Memorial Museum
- Learn the changing Mother Earth from the specialist
- Savor the local Japanese meal at a local restaurant
It rained. Rain prevented us from visiting the restricted area to see the steamy crater. This was a huge disappointment. But the visit to the Volcano Science Museum educated us with a lot of information about the past repeated eruption history of the area. The visit to Mimatsu Memorial Museum taught us about the growth of Showa-Shinzan lava dome – the wheat field was raised to 400m plateau in one year and 9 months. Having a second night dinner out of the hotel was a good idea to escape from a very good, but sometimes too much food. Hot spring bath and sleep.
Hokkaido with Hiroko, 2017, is approaching. On this newly re-constructed site, I will be feeding you the daily activities which we will enjoy in Hokkaido. Follow us!
volcano crater walk, dipping in hot spring, onsen formal Japanese meal, onsen yukata, one of the most beautiful caldera lake, Lake Toya, volcano walk, soba (buckwheat) making class, horseback riding, Shiretoko-five lake tour, early morning canoeing, special cup of coffee prepared in the woods, varieties of local meals, ramen lunch,…..
The course is Chitose-Noboribetsu-Mt.Usu-Lake Toya-Furano-Shintoku-Lake Akan-Lake Mashu-Shiretoko-Abashiri-Wakkanai-Rishiri-Sapporo.
Professional chefs! Professional chefs with some Japanese Cuisine knowledge! Here is a fun and rewarding competition information for you!
Please apply for the 6th ANNUAL JAPANESE CULINARY ART COMPETITION organized by Nihon Ryori Academy, Kyoto, Japan. First Prize, 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize at the final competition held in Kyhoto, Japan, are Y1,000,000, Y300,000 and Y100,000. http://culinary-academy.jp/eng/usa/
There is a regional Pre-competition, held at International Culinary Center, NYC, USA. https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/blog/icc-to-host-upcoming-japanese-cuisine-competitions/ First Prize, 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize at the regional pre-competition held in NYC are Y50,000, Y30,000 and Y20,000.
A chef who recieved the First Prize in NYC will get a chance to be flown to Kyoto, Japan, and compete at the Kyoto Final.
Great opportunity to show your skills to the Japanese professional community.
Submission deadline is Friday June 30, 2017.
Follow the link http://culinary-academy.jp/eng/usa/, submit the application for a grand opportunity!!!
News from Hiroko;
1. New website construction is over; new, clean, updated site is up; Please visit www.hirokoskitchen.com
2. Summer has come in New York area after long weeks of cold spring; I have been enjoying early spring delicacies such as ramps, fiddle-head fern, rhubarb and asparagus. If you live in the area where season changes do not miss consuming spring vegetables now.
Each vegetable growing in specific season offers us specific nutritional benefits which we need during such season. Spring vegetables, including the ones which are noted with bitter flavor, helps us to detox our body and strengthen our immune system.
Ramps (Allium Tricoccum), whose season will be finishing soon at local farmers market, is one of my favorite in this season. This North America plant comes with a bulb, a slender stem and a long, fairly wide deep green leaf. The plant has slight garlicky flavor. In Japan we call it Gyoja-ninniku The plant is known to help to improve the metabolism and strengthen our immune system.
How I enjoy Gyoja-ninniku/ ramps in the Japanese way are;
– Ohitashi (parboiled ramps, marinate in flavored dashi: The Japanese Kitchen Page, 237)
– goma-ae (parboiled ramps, toss with dry sesame sauce: The Japanese Kitchen, Page 252)
– sumiso (parboiled ramps, draped with vinegar-miso sauce: Hiroko’s American Kitchen, page 77)
Then, here is one more recipe which I want to share with you. This is a quick version of Ohitashi and uses a little olive oil. Addition of little dashi boosts umami in this very simple dish.
7 ounces ramps; cut off the bottom bulbs (about 3-4 inches) from the leafy parts
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup prepared dashi (Japanese fish stock)
½ teaspoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1. Bring plenty of water in a medium pot to a boil and cook the bulb parts for 1 minute. Drain and air dry them.
2. In a skillet heat the oil and add the bulb parts with a pinch of salt. Cook until lightly golden here and there, for 2 minutes. Add the leaf parts and cook 1 minute, tossing the leaves so that they are evenly wilted.
4. Add the dashi and cook 30 seconds, stirring all the time. Add the shoyu and cook about 20 seconds. Turn off the heat. Divide the ramps and cooking liquid into two small serving bowls. As I write a bunch of ramps in the refrigerator is waiting for me to cook for this supper.
So many articles have been written about shio-koji. You may have made it in your kitchen, and have been using it to cook up delicious meals. Shio-koji is a seasoning, which makes everything taste delicious and everyone happy. If you don’t know about it, or haven’t made or used it before, I will show you how to do.
Two weeks ago I did Shio-koji workshop at MOFAD, Brooklyn. All attendees prepared their shio-koji from scratch. After 10 days of nursing them, by now, everyone is enjoying their delicious babies in their kitchen.
Commercially-made shio-koji is available at Japanese food stores, but, I urge you to make your own. The process of making it is simple and great fun, and the end product is 100% natural – nothing more than koj-rice, sea salt and water. Koji-rice is easily available at Japanese food stores or online stores.
Let me introduce you to my people back in the 18th and 19th century (Edo period). This woodblock print depicts people crossing over the Nihonbashi bridge, the original site of the Tsukiji fish market. It was during this time that Shio-koji was a popular seasoning. Shio-koji fell out of favor when Japan marched for modernization.
Myoho Asari was born as a first child of Kojiya Honten in Ohita Prefecture, Japan. Kojiya Honten is a 320 years old company, which makes and sells koji-rice. One day she began to dig deep about the history of Shio-koji. She wanted to contribute to the expansion of her traditional family business. Her passion became the product of shio-koji. She appeared on television and radio programs, and traveled extensively to teach people about this ancient seasoning. Soon after, large and small food companies jumped on the same bandwagon and began producing Shio-koji products. Myoho Asari is known today in Japan as a ‘koji woman’.
Koji is a fungal microorganism, which has been commercially used in Japan since 13th century to produce fermented products such as sake (rice wine), miso, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin and rice vinegar. Koji-rice is the steamed rice which was malted/inoculated with koji, and is the foundation of fermentation.
How to make shio-koji:
100g sea salt
300g koji rice (I recommend Cold Mountain Brand koji-rice: Japanese food store or on-line store)
500g water (soft water; NYC water is ideal!)
- Rub the shio-koji between your hands. Warm them up.
- Rub the shio-koji with the sea salt.
- Add 400g water and stir. After 15 to 20 minutes later add the remaining water and stir. Transfer the mixture to a sterilized jar with a lid. Keep the jar, covered, at room temperature.
- Next 5 days (during warm and hot climate) or 10 days (during cold winter time) once a day open the lid and stir the koji with a spoon for about 50 times. Treat shio-koji as your new baby. Needs proper care, or it goes sour or rebel!
- After 5 days or 10 days your shio-koji is ready to use. Firs 2 days koj-rice remains firm and voluminous. On the 3rd and 4th days the mixture becomes looser. Make sure that koji-rice is always covered with water (barely). Do not add additional water. At the end of maturation koji-rice becomes looser and develops faint sweetness.
HOW TO USE Shio-koji:
There is only one rule. Use 10% of shio-koji to the weight of the ingredient which you are pickling or cooking.
Example 1: 7 ounces (200g) chicken thigh needs 20g shio-koji to marinate for 20 minutes to overnight
Example 2: 7 ounces (200g) radishes, cut into slices, needs 20g shio-koji to pickle for 20 minutes to overnight
Shio-koji works for chicken, duck, pork, beef, fish, vegetables,…..everything. Good luck.
This is the ski season, and everyone in Japan is enjoying skiing in Hokkaido. Niseko is one of the most popular skiing sites and lots of Australians come to enjoy the powder snow. Today’s temperature at Niseko is max. at 15F and minimum at 10F. The snow fall from this morning was 3.5 inches. In January it received so far 3.8 feet of snow. The 2016/2017 season accumulation by now is 13 feet. Great accomplishment.
Need a good vacation in early summer? Do you like Japan? Do you like nature? Do you like hot spring? Do you like good food from ramen to soba noodles, Kaiseki (formal meal), good sushi and wagyu barbecue? Would you like to challenge on soba (backwheat noodle) making in the heart of the backwheat growing region? Do like to canoe early in the morning at quiet and beautiful lake? Do you like to walk in the UNESCO registered National Park which is a home to a Japanese brown bear, the largest bear in the world, and active volcano? Do you like to visit a local fish market to see just caught very fresh regional fish which you have never seen before? Do you want to listen to the music and story of Ainu people – the indigenous population of Hokkaido?
There are many more wonderful experiences you will have in Hokkaido with Hiroko, 2017. Join me Hokkaido with Hiroko: May 25 – June 6, 2017. It is a unique tour combining the best of natural, cultural and culinary worlds of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This is the second year of Hokkaido with Hiroko operation. The group that joined Hokkaido with Hiroko 2016 enjoyed it thoroughly as you can see from the photos. Contact: Hiroko Shimbo: email@example.com/ 212-727-3085. There are 2 spaces left.