Wine, Food and Healing in Sorachi
Hokkaido: The foremost home of wine grapes in Japan. Just a short way from Hokkaido’s Doorway, the New Chitose Airport, is the epicenter of a winery boom: the Sorachi area. You can find some of the highest quality wines in Japan here. Not to mention how gorgeous the area is. This area has a photogenic spot for every seasons. With scenic rural towns like Iwamizawa, take an opportunity to get close to nature and enjoy a retreat from your daily life.
A Journey of Exquisite Wines and Photogenic Gardens
The Sorachi Area
A quick hop from Sapporo. Only thirty minutes by car.
Even within Hokkaido, the small scale wineries found in the Sorachi are some of the best. The careful wine production philosophe of the area results in wines that are of exquisite quality, the kind of wine you can’t just find anywhere. I suggest a wine tasting trip to the area so that you can give compare them for yourself!
This area also has many interesting spots for photography, like the “Arte Piazza,” which displays Kan Yasuda sculptures in his hometown of Bibai, or the “Little Rock Hills” garden, which takes its visual inspiration from an old back country English home. Before you know it, your camera will be shooting up a storm!
This time, I went to Sorachi for a trip full of good food and gorgeous photo spots. ♪
Gorgeous Vineyards As Far As the Eye Can See
I first headed to the Housui Winery, very easy to spot with its triangular red roof. Once you get off the Hokkaido Central Expressway Mikasa Interchange, a quick 15 minute drive takes you to this beautiful rural landscape and before long the iconic red roof of the main building comes into view.
The gently sloping hills and seemingly endless vineyards of the area leave a distinct impression. The kind of impression that makes you think “Thank goodness I came to Hokkaido.” Not surprisingly, this beautiful spot was also used as the location of a film.
In the fall, the vines droop down, weighed by succulent grapes. This vineyard spans around 9.0 hectares where roughly 18,000 grapevines are cultivated.
The building, which is almost 100 years old, is a renovated Otaru Warehouse. A part of the set from the movie that was filmed here is still left untouched.
“A handmade wine, at one with its terroir.”
To achieve this level of wine mastery, the people at Housui Winery believe that a “deep understanding of the Iwamizawa soil and reflecting the natural flavor of the region in the wine” is essential. From vine to store shelf, they keep this motto in mind.
Iwamizawa is known for its heavy snowfall, occasionally seeing as much as 2 meters worth of snow cover. Grapevines are said to be weak to cold, occasionally suffering from damage from the heavy snow, so every year here is a battle against the snow.
On the first floor is a wine counter where you can buy wine and do a taste test.
The grapes that have braved the harsh Iwamizawa winter make for a wine with a very unique flavor. This time, I tasted Housui Winery’s “Traminer” wine, and “Campbell Early,” a wine from the nearby town of Yoichi. A fruity aroma and gentle flavor spread across my palette.
On the second floor, which doubles as a distillery and wine shop, you can see the wine-making process in action. From mid-September till around November is peak season and you can take in the lively atmosphere of a busy winery.
From the end of April until the beginning of November, I recommend trying the soft-serve ice cream which is served with either red or white sauce made from the winery’s juicy grapes. And don’t worry, drivers; they’re not made with wine, so you can enjoy them too!
Contact Tel: 0126-20-1810
Address: Iwamizawa, Hosuicho, 364-3
Getting there: Hokkaido Central Expressway Mikasa Interchange (roughly 15 minutes by car)
Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 (Closed every Wednesday from January until March)
URL：http://housui-winery.co.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Enjoying Wine with a Nature Vibe
Next up on my travels was TAKIZAWA Winery. Climbing over the little hills of the Tappu area of the town of Mikasa, the winery’s red roof comes into view. This winery has opened in the fall of 2013.
Shinobu Takizawa had been operating a cafe in Sapporo when he began feeling that he “wanted to live a life closer to nature,” a vision he was able to achieve once he had an encounter with wine-making and started this winery.
In 2004, he began turning a 1 hectare field into what is now a 3 hectare vineyard, a process that took him two years.
Mr. Takizawa grows his grapes using the bare minimum herbicides and pesticides, and uses only natural yeast to ferment his natural wine.
Aside from being able to buy wine in the shop, you can also taste the three recommended wines of the day for only 540 yen. This time, I got to try “Delaware,” “Tabiji (Journey),” and “Takizawa Rosé 2017.”
A careful selection process makes sure that only the best grapes make it into these wines. Only natural fermentation agents are used and very little is added to the final product, a truly natural wine.
“Takizawa Rosé 2017” was made from a blend of 6 different wine and table grapes of all colors.
The sweetness of the grapes really comes through, with spicy accents.
Calmly sip on a glass of delicious wine while staring out at the gorgeous view of the vineyard.
Contact Tel: 01267-2-6755
Address: Hokkaido, Mikasashi Kawanai 841-24
Getting There: Get off at Hokkaido Central Expressway Mikasa Interchange
Hours: 10:00 – 16:00
URL：http://www.takizawawinery.jp/list/index.html (Japanese Only)
An Elegant Moment in Time
Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum, Arte Piazza in Bibai
The Bibai Arte Piazza is only a short five minute drive once you get off the Central Hokkaido Bibai Interchange.
The works of Kan Yasuda, a Bibai native, are on display here.
An old closed-down elementary school was renovated and repurposed for the sculpture museum.
The shape of the classrooms and gymnasium are left mostly unchanged. Walking through the halls, I felt nostalgic for the school days of my youth.
Readers who have passed through Sapporo JR Station might recognize this sculpture, titled “Key of Dream,” as a sibling of the large white stone in the station that people of Sapporo use as a rendezvous point.
Spending a dreamy, seemingly timeless afternoon surrounded by nature and art.
Over a small hill, separated from the rest of the museum you can find “Caffè Arte.”
■Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum Arte Piazza Bibai
・Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum Arte Piazza Bibai Tel: 0126-63-3137
・Caffé Arte Tel：0126-63-1010
・Arte Tel: 0126-63-1010
Address: Hokkaido, Bibai-shi, Sakaemachi, Ochiaicho
Getting There: 5 minutes by car once off the Bibai Interchange
・Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum Arte Piazza Bibai: 9:00 – 17:00
・Caffé Arte ：10:00～17:00 ※11月中旬～3月中旬の平日は10:00～16:00
・Caffè Arte: 10:00 – 17:00
(From Mid-November to Mid-March, Weekdays are 10:00 – 16:00)
Closed: Tuesdays, the days after holidays (except Monday), December 31 – January 3
URL：http://www.artepiazza.jp/ (English Available)
A Picturesque Garden
Little Rock Hills
Extolled as “The English Countryside, just outside of Sapporo.” With over 11 hectares of vast rolling hills, the ideal of “Living in your Garden” is realized by this grand fusion of forest, garden and home.
Little Rock Hills’ owner, Nobuhiko Matsufuji, worked in Tokyo importing furniture and various goods from England, but he sought to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life. He bought this land roughly 30 years ago with the intent of creating a small village where he could pass the time at ease with his friends. He created this quaint English garden, trying his best to leave the geographical features of the forest as is.
“It feels like I’m looking at an interior design magazine from overseas!” is what I think to myself. As soon as the red roof of the building comes into view, I instantly find myself wanting to take a picture.
This house was dismantled, imported from England and rebuilt here to serve as Mr. Matsufuji’s home. I’m told that he rebuilding of the home was done by local workers English workers.
All of the tiles and sculptures were also imported from the same part of England.
A lot of attention was paid to even the minutest details, so I highly suggest you to look carefully and notice all the small intricacies that can be found in all of the nooks and crannies.
Two cottages are hidden a little further into the property.
With all of the antique furniture that’s also found in the cottages, it’s easy to become encompassed by the feeling that you’ve taken a holiday away to the English countryside.
Also found nearby on the property is “Café Watoku Sekian,” a 130 year old stone warehouse from nearby Iwamizawa that was transported here and repurposed as a cafe.
I find old antique European furniture and various Japanese curios that the owner has accumulated over the years densely lining the inside of this 2 storey shop.
You can enjoy small one-plate lunches and desserts in the cafe.
The “Devil’s Cheesecake” comes highly recommended. Taking inspiration from the cheesecakes of the Basque region, the surface is scorched with savory caramelized sugar, and the light sourness of the cheese make for an exquisite blend of flavors.
Coffee, English tea, and organic herbal tea are all available on the menu, but the atmosphere moved me to go with a true English tea.
Sitting in the rocking chair on the second floor and gently rocking, looking out over the distant mountainous scenery, the worries of daily life slip away and you can really feel at peace in your surroundings.
■Little Rock Hills / Café Watoku Sekian
Contact Tel: 0126-44-2858
Address: 684-2 Kurisawachō Kamihoro, Iwamizawa, Hokkaido
Getting There: 15 minutes after getting off the Central Hokkaido Expressway Iwamizawa Interchange
Hours: 11:00 – 17:00 (Last Order 16:00)
Closed Wed, Thur (Except Public Holidays)
Closures during the winter
Entry: ￥600 (or Free with Purchase from Cafe)
Parking: Free (10 spaces)
URL：http://littlerockhills.com/ (Japanese Only)
A field of Roses that Can’t be Missed!
Iwamizawa Park Rose Garden
Only a short five minutes from the Central Hokkaido Expressway Iwamizawa Interchange is Iwamizawa Park. On the grounds, a large Ferris wheel stands out and you can also find the Hokkaido Green Land here.
At roughly 40,000m and with 8800 individual flowers, this garden boasts 630 varieties of roses, making it one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful rose gardens.
Looking to get a bit of a feminine shot, I wore a dress and accessorized with a woven basket. Even in the summer, early morning and late evenings tend to be chilly in Hokkaido, so I brought a cardigan with me just to be safe. Thinking about how to match your outfit to your destination is one of the joys of a girls trip!
You’re able to enjoy the abundant variety of different roses from the end of June until mid-October, and can double check how far along the flowers are blooming by going to the website below (Japanese only).
Contact Tel: 0126-25-6111
Address: 794 Shibuncho, Iwamizawa
Getting There: 5 minutes away after getting off the Central Hokkaido Expressway Iwamizawa Interchange
Open: 9:00 – 17:00 (depending on season, sometimes later)
Parking: Free (250 spaces)
URL：http://www.iwamizawa-park.com/ (Japanese Only)
Visiting the Wines of Sorachi by Sightseeing Taxi
If you’re going to be visiting wineries, you’re definitely going to want to enjoy their wines. Getting a chance to try and compare the different wines of a region is the best part!
That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that growing grapes for wine requires large plots of land. As such, wineries are often far from train stations, towns, and cities. What if you get there and you think to yourself “I love wine, but I drove my car here so I can’t drink any,” or “getting to the winery itself seems tricky and I don’t know if I can handle it.”
I’d like to introduce a very helpful service for those of you who might be worried about these kind of problems: Sorachi Wine Taxis.
You can rent a taxi for your day trip and have the driver take you around all the different wineries. This lets you kick back and enjoy the wines. And while you have a local expert with you, why not ask the driver about recommendations for restaurants and local spots that you might otherwise miss?
Take this opportunity to see the area like so few others have!
■Sorachi Wine and Food Monitor Tour (Leaving from Iwamizawa)
Price: Taxi Rental (small size taxi)
4 hour course: \10000 (tax incl.) per taxi (up to 40 bookings per season)
6 hour course: \15000 (tax incl.) per taxi (up to 60 bookings per season)
Please be aware that once the number of bookings for a season has been reached, you are no longer able to make a booking.
Contact: Taxi Bookings – Hi no De Kotsu (Sunrise Transport)
Booking available from 8:00 – 17:00 (please book at least one day in advance)
Tour Inquiries: Iwamizawa Tourism Association
Hours: 9:00 – 17:30