1. TOP>
  2. STORY

Home to a bounty of seafood from three different oceans

Hokkaido is surrounded by three oceans, including the Pacific Ocean, Okhotsk Sea, and Sea of Japan, that offer a huge variety of fish and seafood. These ocean waters are rich in nourishment and contain a large amount of plankton, which is a food source for many fish. Furthermore, Hokkaido is also located near where the cold Chidori Current meets the warm Tsushima Current, bringing together seafood from both north and south. Fish that develop in the turbulent waters of these currents have stronger, leaner meat that tastes delicious. This bountiful natural environment is the source of Hokkaido’s treasure trove of seafood.

The seafood of Okhotsk and its sea ice

Hokkaido’s fishing industry is responsible for about one-fourth of Japan’s total seafood catch and the prefecture has the largest number of fishermen in all of Japan, making it one of Japan’s largest fisheries. Hokkaido retains a top market share for scallops, salmon, trout, konbu kelp, Alaska pollock and Okhotsk atka mackerel.
Each ocean surrounding Hokkaido is unique. For example, the Okhotsk Sea is covered in sea ice from the north in the winter. When the ice reaches the shore fishing is not possible, but in the spring plant plankton stuck in between the sea ice are released all at once, increasing the number of animal plankton that eat it, which in turn brings huge numbers of marine life. For this reason, sea ice brings a huge bounty to the region’s fishing industry each year.

Hokkaido seafood has earned worldwide acclaim

Seafood demands freshness, so once it is brought in to port it is immediately auctioned off and transported to destinations across Japan. There are many markets with freshly caught seafood unique to each community found close to fishing ports. These are open to the general public, which attract a large number of visitors from Japan and even abroad.
In recent years, the amount of seafood exported overseas from Hokkaido has increased a great deal, earning fresh Hokkaido seafood worldwide acclaim. The prefecture’s main exports include scallops, salmon, sea cucumber, Alaska pollock and squid, with destinations that include China, South Korea and the United States.

Raising a wide variety of crops in Hokkaido’s broad stretch of land

Hokkaido accounts for approximately one quarter of Japan’s total farm lands, where a variety of crops, including rice, vegetables, and fruits are grown. The farm acreage owned by a single farming family in Hokkaido is about 15 times that of any other farming household elsewhere in Japan. As such, crops are raised in Hokkaido on a large scale.
A number of Hokkaido’s produce, such as potatoes, onions, kabocha pumpkins, wheat, soybeans, buckwheat, and sugar beets, have the highest yield in all of Japan. This, combined with seafood and livestock products supplied from Hokkaido, makes the prefecture truly Japan’s food supply base.
Additionally, Hokkaido offers the freshest seasonal ingredients as produce become harvested from each local producing region. During the harvest times of fruits and vegetables, product stands such as those at roadside stations are usually crowded with eager buyers.

Growing delicious vegetables through temperature differences between day and night

Hokkaido has large temperature fluctuations between day and night, even in summer when crops grow. Such differences between hot summer days and cool nights result in a high concentration of sugar in crops, giving rise to sweet and full flavored produce.
Moreover, as crops are grown in a cool climate, where pests rarely proliferate, Hokkaido enjoys the great advantage of farming with little use of chemicals. Hokkaido has taken the lead in Japan to promote green farming by minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in growing high quality produce in each region for consumers to feel safe and at ease.

Snow and cold weather are also great for vegetables

While winter snow and cold temperatures may come across as unfavorable for growing crops, many areas in Hokkaido have overcome this hurdle and utilized the properties of winter in making even better produce. Etto cabbage grown in Wassamu Town and Kenbuchi Town, and yukinoshita daikon raddish grown in Hakodate City are two examples of vegetables harvested in the fall and stored in snow to enhance their sweet flavor and watery, crisp texture.
Another example would be the famous secchumai rice grown in Numata Town, which is known for the heavy snowfall it gets in winter. The rice is stored in cold air given off from the snow in the unhulled form to maintain its freshness and fragrance. In addition, towns such as Biratori that grow spinach in a greenhouse are practicing cold air cultivation where the crops are exposed to cold outside air right before harvest in order to enhance sugar content.

Hokkaido is a “Dairy Kingdom” that is Japan’s largest producer of milk

Of the 1.4 million head of dairy cattle in Japan, approximately 57%, or around 800,000 head, live in Hokkaido. Led by Betsukai Town in Eastern Hokkaido, Hokkaido is the largest milk producer of any other prefecture in Japan. These numbers cement Hokkaido’s status as “Dairy Kingdom” in both name and reality.
Each dairy farm in Hokkaido is unique in that they employ a scheme best suited to their size and workforce, from naturally fed free range cattle to mega farms managed by computers and smartphones.
Raw milk collected from across Hokkaido is shipped throughout Japan by specialized ship only after it has cleared rigorous inspections carried out by certified inspectors.

A cool summer time climate perfect for raising dairy cattle

Cows grazing on the green grasses of open pasture land. This sight is one of Hokkaido’s most well known during the summer time. The mainstay Holstein dairy cow doesn’t deal well with heat and stress, and they lose their appetite if exposed to hot temperatures or tight spaces, which effects milk production. Hokkaido’s cool climate and expansive lands are believed to have a significant effect on high quality milk production because of the minimized stress caused to dairy cows that live here.
In recent years, there has been a rising number of dairy farmers who grow their own corn for feed at their farm to ensure feed is safe by avoiding the use of imported feed products.

Milk is used in everything from prepared foods to sweets and other favorites

Hokkaido has produced a wide range of processed foods using milk because the ease of which fresh milk can be sourced locally.
In addition to products made from raw milk, such as fresh cream, butter, yogurt and cheese, communities with large raw milk production are known for their ice creams, cakes and other sweets. The secret behind this is Hokkaido’s advantageous agriculture that makes it possible to easily obtain high quality essential ingredients for sweets, such as wheat flour, and eggs.
Milk is also often used in a wide range of home cooked dishes, too, such as cream stew, gratin, and pasta sauce, making it essential to the everyday lives of people in Japan.

Hokkaido’s livestock industry began with pork

Within Hokkaido’s agricultural industry, the livestock industry began back in 1856 when pigs were first raised at the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office. Later, pork became treasured as a source of nutrition for the commoners during the pioneering days of Hokkaido and before and after World War II, making it a food closely interconnected to the prefecture’s history and culture. Beef cattle raised in Hokkaido include Holstein bulls and Kuroge as well as Akage Japanese beef cattle. Hokkaido also retains a considerable share of calf production used to breed famous varieties of Japanese beef cattle. As for chicken, like other parts of Japan, broiler chicken is the main species raised in Hokkaido, but local brand chickens are also produced in the prefecture by utilizing the unique climate conditions of each region.

Meat raised in a cool climate and the expansive lands of Hokkaido

Hokkaido’s microthermal climate is very comfortable for cattle that typically do not do well in heat. The humidity level in Hokkaido is lower than that of areas in Honshu and those to its south, which makes the environment comfortable for cattle.
The expansive lands of Hokkaido give farmers a better chance to secure acreage suitable for cows to graze, and have a wide space for stockyards if they decide to also raise pigs and chickens, thereby raising quality stocks with better meat and less stress.
Hokkaido is known for many of its local delicacies, including hamburger meat made of brand name beef, pork on rice, and fried chicken, as well as processed meat products such as ham and sausage.

Raising brand name meat in a safe and secure breeding environment

It is well established that Japan has a stringent health standard for meat processing plants. In Hokkaido, special efforts are made in raising brand name meat cattle starting with the breeding stage.
These efforts include but not limited to hygiene control of fields, pig pens and chicken coops, reduced pesticide use, organic cultivation, use of self-grown dent corn in some places, and minimized use of chemicals in disease control, all of which aim to raise healthy cattle.
As Hokkaido enjoys a robust agriculture and fishery industry, there are cases where brand name chickens are fed signature agriculture and fishery products procured locally, such as buckweat and scallops.

Hokkaido is a treasure trove of ingredients for desserts

Hokkaido is a major producing region for a variety of key dessert ingredients. For example, Hokkaido produces around 80% of the nation’s harvest of azuki bean, which is used as a sweet red bean paste in Japanese sweets. Hokkaido also produces about half the nation’s milk, which is in turn manufactured into dessert ingredients such as whipping cream and butter. Hokkaido’s variety of high-quality, reliable, delicious products are highly sought after by pastry chefs far and wide. These products include: eggs (used in dough or custards), wheat flour (used in cakes or cookies), glutinous rice (used in Japanese-style sweets such as dango dumplings), sugar beets (used in the production of sugar), and fruits such as apples, strawberries, and many, many more.

The cool climate is perfect for making sweets

Hokkaido’s cool, dry climate is said to be particularly suited to making western-style pastries and desserts. The climate resembles Europe, where many of these dishes originate, and has attracted some of Japan’s top pastry chefs. Strong competition between Hokkaido’s plentiful manufacturers of sweets has created numerous innovative and delicious new desserts.
In 2005, Sapporo took advantage of its wonderful environment to launch the “Sweets Kingdom Sapporo” project. This project supports the development and promotion of sweets which use special local ingredients.
Hokkaido is not only a perfect environment for dessert makers, it is also a paradise for any visitor who has a sweet tooth. Hokkaido’s clear, cool skies and wide-open spaces make every bite all the more delicious.

The “Stroll & Savor Sweets” Ticket offers great value!

Even among Hokkaido, the Tokachi area is a hotspot for sweets, thanks to the region’s excellent azuki beans, dairy products, and wheat flour. Visitors will delight in a wide range of reasonably-priced desserts made from fresh, local ingredients. The region even offers a special “Sweets Meguri Ken” (Stroll & Savor Sweets Ticket). One book of four tickets costs 500 yen, and each ticket can be exchanged for selected sweets at any of about 30 participating stores. Try this convenient, cost-effective way to sample the local delicacies!