Escape! Malaysia - - Hokkaido -

The quiet sub-pre­fec­ture of So­rachi is a place to ex­pe­ri­ence with all your senses. The eyes are given a treat no mat­ter when your ar­rival with its abun­dance of lush na­ture and gor­geous scenery that can be ad­mired all year round. The area also used to be a coal min­ing town and its his­tory of its boom­ing in­dus­try can still be ex­pe­ri­enced at its museums and even on its roads. Coal min­ing has even af­fected So­rachi’s rich pro­duce as well. The mineral-rich soil and cool, tem­per­ate air has made it one of the top wine pro­duc­ing ar­eas in Ja­pan.

To dis­cover So­rachi, start with Iwamizawa and Mikasa, cities sit­u­ated in the south of the sub-pre­fec­ture. A large part of Iwamizawa’s his­tory lies in its coal min­ing past. It is worth find­ing out more of the town’s coal min­ing in­dus­try at the So­rachi Min­ing Memo­rial Man­age­ment Cen­ter. The mu­seum in­tro­duces the valu­able Hokkaido her­itage of coal min­ing. Apart from gain­ing in­for­ma­tion about So­rachi min­ing ar­eas, there are art ex­hi­bi­tions held in the 1909 stone kuras (ware­houses) sit­u­ated at the back of the build­ing.

Mikasa also has a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the coal min­ing in­dus­try. The Mikasa City Mu­seum dis­plays machines and de­vices used in coal min­ing, which was a thriv­ing in­dus­try dur­ing the early Meiji pe­riod. Coal min­ing in Mikasa closed in 1989, af­ter which, ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­gan dig­ging deeper into the ground to un­earth fos­sils. Mikasa City Mu­seum is there­fore known for hav­ing Ja­pan’s largest col­lec­tion of am­monite fos­sils. There are about 600 lo­cally found spec­i­mens, as well as other fos­sils of rep­tiles, shell­fish, and other an­cient life. The mu­seum is per­fect for young chil­dren to visit, as it al­lows vis­i­tors to touch most of the fos­sils on dis­play.

A high­light of these two cities are its winer­ies. Hokkaido has been es­tab­lished as one of the best grape-grow­ing re­gions in Ja­pan. In Iwamizawa, trav­ellers can visit Housui Win­ery. This vine­yard holds sim­i­lar con­di­tions to that of Bordeaux in France, which pro­duces crisp and light red and white wines. On a tour here, vis­i­tors can sam­ple the Yuki no Keifu se­ries of pre­mium wines that are 100% com­pletely made with grapes har­vested in this com­pany’s own fields. In the sum­mer, a spe­cialty ice cream is served where its syrup top­ping is made from the dis­carded grape skins af­ter wine pro­duc­tion. It is al­co­hol free and safe for kids to con­sume too. Over in Mikasa, Ya­mazaki Win­ery is a fa­mous win­ery run by four gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers. All the wine pro­duced are made with grapes grown here and is most known for its pinot noir, which is said to be dif­fi­cult to grow in cold re­gions. Both winer­ies can also be viewed from Mt Tappu Ob­ser­va­tory in Mikasa.

These two ar­eas of So­rachi are also known for its fresh pro­duce. The de­li­cious flavours of Hokkaido can eas­ily be sam­pled at North Farm Stock, an up­mar­ket gro­cer that pro­duces and sells unique foods made from Hokkaido in­gre­di­ents. One of its top sell­ers is its Mini Tomato Sauce, which uses cherry toma­toes that have a high sugar con­tent to pro­duce a mild and rich ketchup that con­tains no ad­di­tives.

An­other place to visit to try Hokkaido pro­duce is at Spa & Inn The Maple Lodge. The cabin-style ac­com­mo­da­tion has its own ap­ple orchard and many of the dishes at the restau­rant fea­ture these hand­picked fresh ap­ples. The restau­rant also has its own veg­etable som­me­lier, Masako Yoshikawa, who aids in the prepa­ra­tion of Hokkaido pro­duce to cre­ate French-in­spired meals. Spa & Inn The Maple Lodge has plans to cre­ate a glamp­ing (glam­orous camp­ing) ground in the field next to the lodge. Avail­able in sum­mer and au­tumn, it al­lows guests to en­joy the fresh and cool air un­der the stars. In­cluded in the glamp­ing pack­age is also a bar­be­cue and out­door cook­out of Hokkaido in­gre­di­ents next to a camp­fire. If not glamp­ing, guests stay­ing at the lodge should check out Moyo Hot Spring on­site of the ho­tel. The tra­di­tional hot spring has baths made of cy­press and gran­ite and are filled with ther­a­peu­tic mineral water that soothes chronic der­mati­tis, im­proves poor cir­cu­la­tion and re­lieves aching mus­cles and fa­tigue.

FROM TOP LEFT Am­monites on dis­play at Mikasa City Mu­seum

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