Last day in Niseko

March 4th, 2011

For our last day in Niseko we knew we had to leave Hirafu, leave the touristy stuff behind and find the real Niseko. We had a lead from our D & Department guide about a coffee shop opened by a young couple called Takano Coffee. The coffee shop is actually located on the first floor of a house and finding it would be a bit of a challenge so we decided to take a cab there. The cab fare was around $35, but it was well worth it.

You turn off a main road onto a small rural road. Takano Coffee is unassuming and you might easily drive right by it, if they didn’t have their sign on the road. Thankfully our taxi driver actually knew what we were looking for!

The walk up to the house to the left onto a dark stained wood deck with piles of firewood.

The surrounding landscape is calming and beautiful.

When you enter Takano coffee you can smell the coffee roasting away behind the counter.

The space is both bright and cozy, the dark stained plywood ceiling matches the dark floors and in the middle of the room, a wood burning fireplace is roaring away.

We take a seat in front of the window with a beautiful view of Mt. Yotei.

We noticed there was a cat theme going on, so we gave the owners our Kitka business card which features a cat knocking over a bottle of milk. We told them we would love to take some photos of the coffee shop and share it with our readers and customers.

The owners of Takano coffee are Hiromi (left) and Daiichiro Takano (right), a young couple from Sapporo who wanted to leave the city for a quiet life in the country. Their house is self built and they live above the coffee shop with their 4 cats.

We loved this kitty cat card holder.

Our coffees arrives in a beautiful bone china set by Sori Yanagi.

We also noticed a Sori Yanagi kettle peculating away on the wood burning fireplace.

We love the little details, the nice wooden tray with ceramic sugar jar and small cream pitcher.

We start to feel a little peckish and inquire about ordering something sweet. Hiromi tells use her husband Daiichiro made the dessert fresh that morning.

Juli ordered the cheesecake.

I ordered the pudding. YUM!

Cat stamp!

We head back to the counter to give our compliments and to order another coffee and notice that Hiromi is reading our blog.

Right behind the counter you can see the coffee beans roasting, the coffee they use is purchased from Hiroguchi coffee in Tokyo.

Our next two cups of coffee come with another individual milk pitcher.

We enjoy our coffees while Daiichiro stokes the fire, it is so cozy in here we could just linger for hours. I think we did actually.

They asked us where we were planning to go that day, and we mentioned we wanted to visit “Yunosato Desk”, an old school that was converted into a wood working shop. The couple offered to phone ahead to see whether or not it was open, but when no one picked up, Hiromi offered to drive us there.

We thanked her for her offer but said we would just take a cab. When she persisted we said yes, and thanked her profusely. Japanese hospitality!

We arrived at the old schoolyard which seemed to be empty, the door was unlocked so we walked inside and found a little note left behind on the floor. If it was just Juli and I we probably would have given up and left, but Hiromi called the number and in a few minutes Mr. Tashiro found us and took us inside.

Of course we had to put our slippers on first.

Yunosato desk is a very interesting wood shop because not only is it located in an old elementary school, it specializes in study desks and stationary.

Everything is made at the school, and sold in this little gift shop.

desk / bookcase.

Bookstands with “Hans J. Wegner’s 100 chairs” by Professor Oda.

They still have the old blackboard and school clock.

I fell for these wooden spoons.

A photograph of the Yunosato Desk collective.

A pictureframe which holds a book, the stand is adjustable so any book will fit well.

A beautiful and simple cherry tray.

After we were finished perusing the shop Mr. Tashiro offered to take us on a tour of the old school. This is where all of the wood finishes are applied, most of them are oils.

The school doesn’t have much heat, so many rooms have their own wood burning stoves, at least there is no shortage of wood here!

We entered the gymnasium where all of the lumber is milled, it was spectacular! Look at all of the live edge timber on the stage.

The Beatles.

A custom burner to emboss their logo on the products they make.

The hallways are so long, and there are so many rooms!

You can still see children’s artwork from the early 90s on display.

Thank you for the tour! We had one more stop to make, for lunch in the countryside, but when Hiromi called ahead, we found out that they were closed. We wanted to buy Hiromi lunch for her hospitality, so she took us to a soba restaurant just outside the main Hirafu area.

Even though this soba restaurant was near Hirafu, it was more of a local haunt.

The space was very warm with soft diffused pendant lights, and a lot of natural wood.

Juli stuck with the classic soba, which is all hand cut.

I got the duck soba, which is their specialty. It was the best soba I’ve ever had!

We were full, and Hiromi offered to drive us to our hotel. It was an amazing day, and it was all thanks to the Takano’s generosity.

Thank you so much!

The next day we got up early to catch the first train, the stations here aren’t run by JR but rather by local homeowners who live above the station and offer a place for travelers to rest. That is a cat peeking over the window.

The train that came was only a single car, and it started filling up each stop. Needless to say this was a long ride back to Sapporo.

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