A Bout Between Blues: Nagano vs Hokkaido


Foreigners tend to stand out in a country as homogenous as Japan. Many are bigger in voice and body, attracting attention from the calmer, quieter Japanese. As much as we try to fall in step, we’ll always do something a little different. Pulling 2 stinky cheeses and a cheese board from a bag at a sumo match did nothing for my blending in.  

Taking pictures of blue cheese during the bouts was challenging - watch the bout or focus on the cheese?

Taking pictures of blue cheese during the bouts was challenging - watch the bout or focus on the cheese?

I wanted to study some Japanese blue cheeses and thought that a long day of sumo would be a fun place to try them and take pictures. I brought 2 blue cheeses, Atelier de Fromage’s Fromage Bleu and Niseko Cheese Factory’s Sky [ku:]. It was fun juxtaposing the flavorful blue cheese with the powerful sumo wrestlers. Thus developed a themed bout between blues, Nagano vs Hokkaido. 

Bout: term for a sumo match between two wrestlers. 

Both Japanese blue cheeses are award winners, so the bar started high. Atelier de Fromage hails from the mountains of Nagano. It won 2 major awards for Fromage Bleu, the Grand Prix at the 2014 Japan Cheese Awards and the Super Gold at the 2015 Mondial du Fromage. The second cheese is Sky [ku:] from Niseko Cheese Factory, found in the famous ski town of Niseko, Hokkaido. It won the Bronze at the 2014 Japan Cheese Awards. 

Atelier de Fromage’s Fromage Bleu is decidedly creamier and more pungent. It is a salty blue cheese with almost no hint of sweetness. It pairs incredibly well with a light honey. The blues of this cheese are darker with strong lines coursing through the creamy paste. Its pungency and rich flavors appeal easily to the Western palette. 

The Niseko Cheese Factory’s Sky [ku:] is a harder cheese, resembling an aged blue. It breaks into small crumbles that are light and deliciously salty. The blue mold runs through the cheese in small streams, seeping into the paste at all turns. This is definitely a great blue cheese for people who are not used to stronger flavors or would prefer a less pungent blue. 

Blue cheese is made all across Japan with growing popularity domestically as people get used to its particularly delicious stink (biased, of course). For a more traditional blue that is rich, creamy and pungent, Nagano’s Atelier de Fromage satisfies all desires. For a new experience and especially if you’re a blue novice, Niseko Cheese Factory has the answer for you in its Sky [ku:]. 

Check out the profile of Atelier de Fromage's Fromage Bleu here

Check out the profile of Niseko Cheese Factory's Sky [ku:] here