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Shimokawa - The Local Artisans of Shimokawa
- On a recent trip to the northern Hokkaido town of Shimokawa, we set aside a day to discover what sets this remote town apart not only from other regions of Hokkaido, but also Japan itself. As we did our pre-trip research online and through trusted locals, we discovered a wave of creatives setting up shop in recent years. Taking advantage of the region’s unique and available natural resources, they’re creating new lifestyles and businesses to make a living, while also putting Shimokawa on the radar of travelers looking for rural inspirations driven by a new generation. After driving up through some of the prettiest fall foliage we’ve seen, we spent two days making our way around town, meeting the folks we came to see (plus many that we didn’t!), and getting lost in the surrounding forests when we had time. It really is true that “people make places”, and we had such a great time in Shimokawa that we’ve put together some of the stories we collected along the way. Here is the story of a few of these creatives that caught our attention and were kind enough to show us their craft and share a bit of their story. Among the curious details of their life, we wanted to know their philosophy, goals, and since none of the them were actually born in Shimokawa, how they ended up there. Anshare Guesthouse - Misaki Tachibana Misaki is a young writer and creative from Shizuoka Prefecture, but she first started her career, as many do, in Tokyo, where she worked for a media company. In fact, it was her time in Tokyo that brought her to Shimokawa to begin with, as her work involved interviewing people around Japan about their countryside lifestyles, and one unexpected project brought her to the area. As work went on, the idea of helping local areas get noticed started to brew in her mind, but she wanted to pursue that goal in a truly rural place, away from the big city. The call came from Shimokawa, and without thinking twice she packed her bags and set out on a new adventure, joining the town’s marketing and promotion office, and doing the most important thing when moving to rural Japan: Meeting the locals and diving deep into the area right away! Sorry Koubou - Kaori Yamada Kaori Yamada, originally from Fukushima, is one of the creative minds behind Sorry Koubou, a company set in a tiny wooden shop in Ichinohashi, a short drive away from Shimokawa’s center. As with Misaki, she ended up in Shimokawa by chance after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami in her home prefecture. After pondering her future and hearing about the opportunities popping up in Hokkaido, she decided to make her move. Kaori started Sorry Koubou (http://sorrykoubou.jp/) out of her love of herbs, but also from the challenge of finding personal care products suitable for her sensitive skin. According to her, she wanted to make products using only natural ingredients, and Hokkaido was a natural choice as the harsh winters imbue local herbs with the nutrients needed for her products. Kaori is cultivating the herbs herself, but without the knowledge and support from Shimokawa’s locals she wouldn’t be where she is, as she needed so much help to grow the herbs in local conditions. That reliance on locals is actually the provenance of the brand name Sorry Koubou, as Kaori was constantly apologizing for asking them for help when she was starting out, and the name stuck! Fupunomori - Marie Tanabe During our time in Shimokawa it quickly became clear that the surrounding forests and fields, mainly used for industry, are now seen more and more as a natural source for daily products that deliver (quite literally) the local essence to people all over. We talked with Marie Tanabe from the personal care brand Fupunomori (https://fupunomori.net/), another team making natural products, but this time with a focus on the forest itself. During our interview the team was producing essential oils from local Sakhalin fir wood, though Sakhalin fir is the most readily available in the Shimokawa area and is the one they use the most. When trees are cut locally by forestry companies, Fupunomori collects the scrap and unused branches to extract their oils from, making their business just another part of the local movement to reduce waste and create efficiencies in-tune with the community ethos. Their products are for the body and home catering to both women and men, from lotions to soaps and essential oils, but also pillows with filler from the forest, aroma candles, and even a masculine pine-based beard oil.Fupunomori’s philosophy is to come up with new ideas of how to use the local forestry industry in creative ways beyond lumber and pulp, and this means being physically and emotionally close to the forest to create a sustainable business. In fact, the brand itself originated within the forestry association itself before being spun-off into its own entity as it grew. Of course, the team members behind Fupunomori are all people who came to the area from other places seeking a new lifestyle. Marie is from Chitose in southwest Hokkaido, but first came to Shimokawa because she was a customer of the products and wanted to help develop them further. She met her husband (one of the brand designers) in town, and the other two women on the team are from Tokyo and Osaka respectively.As we stood in their oil-producing room, Marie told us that most people don’t come into contact with natural wood much anymore, so their products are a way to reconnect with the forest regardless of where you live. Craft So - Kenji Usuda One of our surprise encounters came through Kaori from Sorry Koubou, who told us that we had to meet Kenji Usuda(http://www.craft-so.com/), a local craftsman who originally came from the seaside resort town of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. Much like Fupunomori seeks to use smaller branches and needles of forestry scrap to produce personal care products, Kenji uses slightly larger pieces of waste wood for woodworking, creating original products that both come from, and evoke the forest. As we walked into his workshop we were struck by how large it is, filled with raw materials and his finished products, but also more traditional wooden products from the previous owner. It feels like a place where one goes to work and be prolific. We sat down with Kenji over a curry lunch at Apollo, one of Shimokawa’s most famous cafes, run by a man known as Apo-Mas, the Master of Apollo.Before moving to Shimokawa, Kenji was working in IT in Tokyo for eight years, but got tired of his creative output only existing in a virtual space and wanted to create physical objects. When he first moved to Hokkaido he found he was mainly using imported wood to craft his creations, and became aware that a large percentage of the wood harvested in Hokkaido is turned into pulp for manufacturing paper and other products. As a matter of chance, he found out that in Shimokawa there was an opportunity to purchase and craft locally harvested and processed wood, and decided to relocate.He now takes advantage of the natural grain, color and edge of the timber from local forests, crafting beautiful tableware, which only until a few years previous would have become pulp. ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
Kuraimu - Asahikawa Store Houses
- Hokkaido’s second largest city Asahikawa may have gained popularity thanks to the towering Mt. Asahi and the Asahikawa Zoo but that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of culture and, of course, drinking opportunities in the city. Proof lies in the renovated red brick buildings of the Kuraimu facility which houses a beer hall and restaurant, design gallery, an interior shop, a dance studio, a rehearsal hall, and even a gallery solely dedicated to chairs. Kuraimu - Asahikawa Store Houses In the early 20th century, this inconspicuous collection of red brick buildings just a five-minute walk from Asahikawa Station was a complex of storage warehouses owned by the Kamikawa Warehouse Group. In recent years the buildings have been put back into use after they were renovated and reincarnated as the stylish Kuraimu complex. Red brick buildings are a somewhat rare sight in Japan as they often don’t survive earthquakes which makes this attractive collection of buildings a unique feature of the region. Kuraimu - Asahikawa Store Houses Kicking off with the Design Gallery, this open space showcases a whole host of works of art from both local artists and those from further afield. The style of the exhibitions varies significantly depending on the time that you visit so you can expect to see anything from paintings to graphic design and crafts. Free to enter, this eclectic gallery is a must-visit for some inspiring and unique local art. In June or July the venue hosts exhibitions and occasionally opening parties as part of the annual Asahikawa Design Week. Kuraimu - Asahikawa Store Houses ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
The Snow Crystal Museum of Asahikawa
- The Snow Crystal Museum of Asahikawa is a curious place; a quaint, quiet museum dedicated entirely to snowflakes, set in a small European style castle building complete with turrets. The museum originally belonged to the Hokkaido Folk Arts and Crafts Village, which was also home to the Yukara Ori Craft Museum and the International Dyeing and Weaving Art Museum, both of which are sadly now permanently closed. Japan is famous for these super focused museums, and the humble charm of this museum has caught the eye of a number of international travelers throughout the years. The Snow Crystal Museum The museum itself features a room filled with snow facts celebrating the uniqueness of snowflakes, an art gallery home to art inspired by snowflakes, a library with books for kids and adults alike and little television screens where visitors can learn about snowflakes, as well as a gift shop with various snow related trinkets including specially designed kimonos with designs influenced by shapes of snowflakes. Guests of the snow museum also have the opportunity to have commemorative pictures taken in a studio, and can enjoy a nice relaxing meal at the café whilst soothing classical piano music plays to a backdrop of fake snow in the summer months, and the real deal when weather permits. The Snow Crystal Museum Walking into the museum feels akin to being whisked out of reality and walking through a real life winter wonderland fairytale as you must first go down a spiral of stairs laced with metal snowflakes that lead to a water fountain where you can toss a coin in for good fortune, followed by a passageway leading to a set of grand doors guarded by two impressive statues of powerful looking women, whilst artificial snowflakes are a consistent decorative presence throughout. The Snow Crystal Museum ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
- Otokoyama Sake Museum
- Museum / Science Museum
- Hokkaido Asahikawashi Nagayamanijou 7
Visited this place Last June 2018. If you have nothing to do at Asahikawa, you can visit this place. You can spend an hour, to see how they make their Sake. You can buy their product at the 1st...
- Sounkyo Mt. Daisetsu Photo Museum
- Art Museum
- Hokkaido Kamikawagunkamikawachou Sounkyou Old Sounkyo Elementary School Site
Great way to get some idea of the terrain on the way up the mountain. Can run through the place in a short time.
- Asahikawa Hyomura Memorial
- Reference/Local/Exhibition/Literature Museum
- Hokkaido Asahikawashi Higashiasahikawaminamichijou 6-3-26
No English but great exhibition about what appears to be the history if Japan colonizing Hokkaido. Plenty of old real tools and farm objects
- Art Gallery / Gallery
- Hokkaido Asahikawa-shi Miyashitadori 11 Kura Kakoi Yume
- Higashi-kawacho Bunka Gallery
- Art Gallery / Gallery
- Hokkaido Kamikawa-gun Higashi-kawacho Higashimachi 1-19-8
Very Interesting place to understand the art and work by the local students and artists alike. Very Good place to visit.
Not just a prefecture but an island of its own, Hokkaido is the most northerly prefecture and island of the Japanese archipelago. Arriving in Hokkaido, which is rural and bursting with breathtaking nature, means entering a world where vast national parks, towering mountains, and natural hot springs can be found at every turn. Come December, these natural splendors freeze over and morph into a winter wonderland.
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