Asahikawa day 1

February 15th, 2011

We arrived at the Asahikawa train station after an hour long express train ride from Sapporo. We were greeted by Naoto Yoshida, the creator of To-mo-ni and the ingenious wrap-wrap which we carry in our store, and his friend Steve King, a Brit turned Asahikawan. We stopped by one of Naoto’s favorite lunch spots – Casa el nino.

The lunch spot is a local haunt with Spanish inspired dishes made from local ingredients.

The first course was a nice hot vegetable soup made from local Hokkaido vegetables.

Next was a pickled herring with potato and shrimp cocktail.

This fish soup dish was particularly deslicious. I thought it had to be the main course.

And then they brought out the paella, one with seafood, and one with chicken.

After we filled our stomachs we went to the Asahikawa Furniture Center. A must see for anyone who’s making a trip to Asahikawa, as the town is a furniture making town and this multi-level showroom is dedicated to mostly local work.

Naoto took us to the CREER booth which is designed by and made by his father, craftsman Yukio Yoshida. Winner of the technical prize for wood working in Japan, and 3rd internationally.

A beautiful sculpted walnut floor lamp.

The more you look at beautifully crafted furniture, the more you become desensitized to it. After only a few minutes it was sensory overload and it got hard to pick out the really special pieces.

We really loved this thin wooden shelf, which is a recent award winner.

This wooden sink was beautifully executed.

Beautiful lacquered stools by Iba Takahito, whom we’ll be lucky enough to visit with the next day.

Many of the pieces here feature beautiful wooden joints.

We stopped by the To-mo-ni/CREER office to meet Naoto’s father and visit the connected workshop.

Japanese tea was served.

This is an article of the two of them in Monocle magazine. They had a large shelf on the wall with every copy.

This is a photo of a chair Yukio Yoshida made using Japanese Bog Wood, an extremely rare wood that is between 5000 – 8000 years old.

You can see the wrap wraps in the top right hand corner of the photo. Naoto tells us that the inspiration of the wrap wrap came after buying an expensive pair of earphones. The cord was too long and was a bit of a nuisance so Naoto decided to design his own cord organizer using scrap wood from a local wood working shop. Now he loves seeing young hip Tokyo kids using the wrap wrap, he says it’s a good way of getting a material like wood into their lives.

An extremely large promotional sample of the wrap wrap.

After tea Yukio-San offered to take us on a tour of his workshop.

This is where all of the CREER products are made, and they also have a custom furniture and repair service.

These are rough sawed pieces of walnut for the CREER lounge chair, each piece is hand planed and sanded to perfection. It’s amazing to see that these processes still exist in a world so filled with computer aided furniture.

Marking where the tiny teeth joints will be.

Daruma glue bottle.

The metal and wood tool on the table is used to plane each piece of wood. What a great work shop, thank you for the tour and letting us take so many photos!

After the workshop tour we had a little bit of time to check out a couple local design shops. The first is:

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4-24 11-5 Toyooka, Asahikawa Hokkaido Japan

In the front of the shop they had various new and vintage products from Scandinavia.

They also stock a beautiful collection of Japanese products, a must visit store in Asahikawa.

The last shop we visited was HOMES which was conveniently located a block away from our hotel. HOMES stocks a wonderful collection of local Japanese crafts, needless to say I picked up a few pieces here. I can’t wait to share them at the end of the trip!

HOMES

Downtown Asahikawa features a nice walking street lined with beautifully intricate ice sculptures, most of which strangely feature large topless women for some reason.

We headed off to Machi ya for some local Izakaya awesomeness.

The menu was hard to read even for Steven who can read Kanji.

Sake!

In Japan, you need to serve food with alcohol. I thought this looked like some nice dried fruit, maybe a prune in a white sauce or something so I just popped it in my mouth.

Turns out it was raw chicken, and it tastes as you would think. Actually I think it wasn’t the taste as much as the texture that was the problem. I must say that the chicken prepared in this type of restaurant is very fresh, and therefore totally fine to eat, it’s just hard to get past the raw chicken. Anthony Bourdain, we couldn’t do it.

The rest of the appetizers were delicious. A simple mashed garlic potato ball with seaweed and salmon roe.

Tasty fried chicken.

Bocconcini with sweet cherry tomatoes.

Sesame pork with mustard.

At this point the rest of our posse arrived, here is a picture of Taku Matsuo and Masanori Oji.

They flew all the way from Tokyo to come visit us! Masanori is fishing in his bag for a couple of wedding gifts for us.

SNAKE!

One of the gifts was a crazy Origami snake that folds into a small paper cube.

The rest of the meal continued without a hitch until the next dish.

I guess the equivalent to the practical joke in Japan is tricking Westerners into eating raw fish testicles. I should have known!

The tempura version was actually pretty good.

Man Mountain sake!

So full. Oishi!

This is a pretty amazing entourage, and most of these guys will be with us the rest of the time we are in Asahikawa.

L-R: Juli, John, Yoshida-san, Matsuo-san, Steve, Oji-san, Takahashi-san

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