In summer, Hokkaido's best descriptor is “green.” From the fields to the forests, the island comes alive after a long winter. In this fertile season, animals graze on the hillsides and valleys of dormant volcanoes. Hokkaido’s volcanic soil is not ideal for rice production, so dairies were introduced. Since the 1800’s, the dairy industry has flourished, resulting in over 50 cheese makers, each with their own approach to cheese in Japan.
Over 5 days this July, we visited 4 cheesemakers in Hokkaido. Each was unique, not only in the style of cheeses made but in their objective. One caters primarily to tourists. Two others have higher purposes - one to provide jobs for the local town and another to raise goats on land conserved as a carbon offset for the future. One more exists to provide domestically-made European-style cheeses with local milk. In a country where cheese production is still in its infancy, the reasons for making cheese are numerous and noteworthy.
We traveled by train, bus, bicycle, and the occasional taxi to visit Kyodogakusha in Shintoku, Tokachi Millenium Forest in Shimizu, Furano Cheese Factory in Furano, and Fattoria Bio in Sapporo. Stay tuned over the next two weeks for all the details on these four amazing cheesemakers and how to do your own “cheese trip” through Hokkaido.
With a welcoming atmosphere and deep connection to the land and community, Kyodogakusha is a biodynamic farm supported by its cheese production. CEO Miyajima Nozomu is also one of the most respected cheese professionals in the country.
Tokachi Millennium Forest
Ran Ran Farm is the goat farm section of the expansive Tokachi Millennium Forest that was created with the aims of conservation and carbon offset. It is one of the only goat farms in Japan, producing fresh and aged European-inspired goat cheeses.
Furano Cheese Factory
While catering heavily to tourists, Furano Cheese Factory teaches visitors about cheese production with a window into the cheesemaking room. There are many interactive exhibits, bottomless tastings, and a pizza restaurant and ice cream shop on site.
On the edge of Sapporo, Fattoria Bio is an Italian-Japanese collaboration making Italian-style cheeses for restaurants and customers around Japan. With Italian expertise and quality Hokkaido milk, imports are rendered unnecessary by Fattoria Bio’s beautiful cheeses.