A REBELLIOUS, offbeat personality definitely seems to be a common character trait of talented chefs – Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, those two fat ladies – to name but a few well known examples.
Much less famous, arguably no less talented, and certainly as interesting, is Kutchan’s Hirotsugu Hashimoto. Hashimoto-san actually stumbled upon cooking after being expelled from his college where he was studying to become an architect. When he was 18 he headed to Europe and trained as a chef for three and a half years in a hotel on the Austrian-German border.
Over the next 20 odd years he travelled the world dabbling in a variety of business and leisure pursuits. Among a range of eclectic and impressive achievments, Hashimoto-san bought into 100 hamburger franchises in California; was briefly the all-Japan windsurfing champion; became a surf bum in Hawaii; owned a surfing wholesale company in Sapporo; and was involved in severl restaurant, bar and coffee shop ventures.
About 20 years ago he settled down somewhat in Niseko. He bought the Village House pension in the middle village at a time when Hirafu was ‘so quiet you could hear leaves falling on the roof in autumn’.
Always one to stray from the norm, Hashimoto-san was one of the pioneers of snowboarding in Hirafu. Still today he regularly boards, but also spends a lot of time taking people on guided fishing tours of local rivers and streams.
But what should be of most interest to Niseko visitors today is his unique brand of cooking, influenced by the years exploring the world and experimenting with food. He has his own small organic farm and, utilising his artistic flair, creates fresh, vibrant, unique dishes. His restaurant’s name, Shunsai, explains well what one can expect to find on the menu – shun means fresh, seasonal ingredients; sai means colour.
Located on Eki Mae Dori just near the train station, Shunsai is a culinary experience not to be missed.