Shimanaega from the Chikap Cheese Factory

Many people are drawn to the idea of a bucolic existence, but few pursue that dream. One Japanese couple made the ultimate transition, moving from bustling Tokyo to Nemuro in Hokkaido. This small town is as far East as the road goes, bordering a wild bird sanctuary. In this rural landscape they started making cheese. 

Chikap Cheese Workshop began making beautiful artisan cheese from the milk of local cows in 2013. Inspired by the nearby Shunkunitai Wild Bird Sanctuary, the workshop itself and the four types of cheeses made there are named after local birds. “Chikap” is the Ainu word for “bird”. (The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japanese that first inhabited Hokkaido.) Their cheeses are “Shimafukuro” (Blakiston’s Fish Owl), “Akagera” (Great Spotted Woodpecker), “Shimaenaga” (Long-tailed Tit), and ”Shippo” (Ainu word for salt).

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A Shimaenaga bird’s petite body is fluffy and white like snow, allowing it to blend into the snow-covered landscape during long winters. The Shimaenaga cheese resembles its namesake, poised in its own little enclosure, looking soft and snowy. While young, the cheese’s flavors are sour with a light saltiness, recommended with jams and preserves. As it ages, “Shimaenaga” becomes more and more creamy, and the mouthfeel smooths out. At this point, a cracker is the best accessory. 

Check out the profile of Chikap's Shimaenaga here.