Participant's voice


Amutoki, much more than just a local tour

In June 2023, I had the opportunity to go to the city of Shibetsu, at the East of Hokkaido. Traveling for the first time in Japan, it was a great surprise to discover this discreet little town, who is in reality an important part of Japanese History and what it was, before to be call Nihon. During this time, I’ve learned precious information about art of cooking, dashi and A Heritage of Salmon, but even more about Jōmon period, Ainu culture and how much this country take care of the fauna and the flora.

I feel lucky, because I didn’t found Amutoki looking for a local tour, but I meet the woman at the origin of this project years ago, during travel in New-Zealand. Satomi gave me a unique experience, and she shared her knowledge and her passion in her usual genuine way. She made such a long way since we met!

Ochazuke experience : a traditional umami dish with a high quality salmon

Before to meet Satomi, in March 2018, I’ve never heard about umami. The local tour Nemuro Strait Salmon Chazuke gave me a taste of all the potential of that part of Hokkaido island, concentrated in a delicious bowl of Ochazuke. But before to enjoy this dish with rice, fermented grilled salmon and various condiments, I did the first dashi tasting of my life. It’s not so far from a wine tasting, but instead of talking about grape variety, I drunk differents bouillons and I learned about shiitake mushroom, scallop and rausu sea kelp. I even made my own salmon fish flakes dashi, and it’s much easier that what I thought!

The Ochazuke is a fast food dish made since more than a millennium in Japan. But the tradition of fishing salmon in Shibetsu goes back more than ten thousand years, and fishermans still looking for quality and not quantity to give the best experience to everyone who want to eat a tasty and healthy fish. With this local tour, I felt like I was not only discovering Japanese culinary art, but it was an invitation to explore what Nemuro Strait preserve since is earlier time.

Dashi: a broth with multiple facets, far from the tourist trail

I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I’m French and Chilean, and cooking is an important part of my identity. When Satomi give me the opportunity to be part of one of her local tour, I was really excited to learn new skills. Thanks to her pedagogic vision, I felt like I was more in a kitchen workshop than in a classical local tour. Tasting different dashi gave me some new ideas about how to make a fusion kitchen, using for example scallop dashi for risotto, shiitake mushroom dashi with tomato soup or salmon fish flakes with a touch of citrus. And I’m pretty sure that all foreigners cooking lover could learn a lot, thanks to local tours designed with a strong spirit of sharing. Before I left Hokkaido, Satomi even teach me how to make a seafood BBQ with ochazuke and dashi, and I tasted local butter who’s so… oishi!

This original experience not only open my appetite but gave me new ideas of creations, and it made me want to learn more about Jōmon period and Ainu culture. To complete my visit, I explored the beautiful Pogawa Historical Grassland, who was full of cottongrass, and I had the chance to have Satomi with me to translate during the visit at the Shibetsu Po-Gawa Historical Nature Park Visitor center. And after many people recommending it to me, I finally started to read Golden Kamuy, who’s a great manga to discover Ainu culture. During this afternoon, Satomi made me drink an original creation that one of her friend from Coffee 58 created, thinking about a coffee, in the middle of the forest. Shibetsu was such an incredible sensory journey!

Shibetsu, a cultural gem between mountains and sea

At the beginning, when I arrived in Shibetsu, I didn’t understand really well why the place has the label of “The most beautiful villages in Japan”. The city center is full of old building, there is not a lot of family walking around, and it’s even tricky to arrived there from Nakashibetsu airport if you don’t have your own car. But after a few days in the city and with to all the knowledge that Satomi shared with me, I clearly understand why, this is one of the most precious places in Hokkaido: between the fox drew by the snow in the mountains of Shiretoko national park and the sea, where fishermans work hard to find a balance between human and wild life, there is a deep beauty that only nature can create. I understand why so many birds move to this place during migration period.

During my journey in Shibetsu, I discover more than I was expecting. Satomi is much more than a local guide and she always do her best to connect people to share simple joys of life. I’m really impress by all what she build, because is never an easy job to talk about History, without forgetting anyone. I hope more people will come to Shibetsu to discover the heritage of Hokkaido, but always keeping in mind not trowing trash, pulling flowers or feeding wilds animals. This, to give the best conditions of life for the next generations.

Thanks Satomi for your time and those precious memories!