November 16, 17 | Yuki Konishi
“Cheese Factory Chikapu” makes cheese with pasture-raised milk which gives us energy for tomorrow
Drive about one hour from Nakashibetsu Airport, and you will see a small blue sign along National Route 44. This is the easternmost cheese factory “Chikapu”.
Chikapu means “birds” in Ainu language. Four types six kinds of cheese each has names of wild birds in Hokkaido with illustrations. There is also “Shimaenaga”, which is gaining attention in past few years!
“Many kinds of wild birds live in Nemuro. We are not from Hokkaido, so we wanted to put some motifs that describe Nemuro to our factory name, and we named it Chikapu.”
The founder of factory Ryota and Fumiko Kikuchi told us. Ryota-san is from Kanagawa Prefecture, and Fumiko-san is from Nagasaki Prefecture. Both of them were working in Tokyo before, and the turning point of moving to Hokkaido was Fumiko-san’s sister casually asked them to visit her once. Fumiko-san’s sister family involved in agriculture, particularly as a dairy farmer, in Nemuro.
“I visited her as a vacation. But when I arrived here, I was set to participate in cheese making training at Mitomo Farm in Nakashibetsu-Cho. It was short-term, but I could not forget how delicious Mitomo’s cheese was.”
“There is nothing in Nemuro, and I was surprised to discover there was a place like this in the world. When we walked on a footpath, we found sceneries like abroad, and non-artificial, real nature truly moved my heart.”
“We considered the risks, of course, but we decided to move because life is just one time. Now I think about it, and I realize my sister set me a wonderful stage for us.”
Mr. and Mrs. Kikuchi seemed really happy when they were talking about how they started the factory. They moved in autumn of the same year and got a full training at Mitomo Farm again to learn cheese making. Then, opened the cheese factory in December 2013.
The cheese which brings out the attractions of pasture-raised milkChikapu is located on the property of “Yokomine Farm” operated by sister’s family. Yokomine Farm pasture raises a small number of cows. They milk cows which grew in large grassland area and ate plenty of grasses at their pace.
Chikapu’s cheeses are made with that pasture-raised milk.
“‘Shimafukurou’ is a hard type cheese aged six months. It turns to nutty flavor when we make with milk eaten summer grass. In winter, when cows eat silages, it turns out to deep flavor like butter.
Colors are also different. The ones made with summer milk look more white and the ones made with winter milk looks more yellowish. Color and flavor change depending on the seasons. When I see that, I realize that milk is made from what cows eat.”
▲Shimafukurou made with winter milk. Fumiko-san drew the illustration on the label. She changes the figure of Shimafukurou for summer and winter.
To introduce other cheese, “Akagera” is two-month aged cheese. It is a semi-hard type which stretches well and has an aromatic scent when heated. They also recommended us different kinds which added Callaway which has a fresh aroma and spicy cumin.
Bloomy rind cheese “Shimaenaga” lets you enjoy right sourness and creamy texture when it’s young. It becomes more creamy as it gets aged!
“Oil pickled Shippo” marinates salty cheese in olive oils. You can use that olive oil for cooking as well, so it is useful if you have one piece in your fridge.
▲On top; Shimafukurou, middle; Akagera, bottom-left; Shimaenaga, bottom-right; Oil pickled Shippo. Shippo means salt in Ainu language.
It has been four years since the establishment of the factory. Mr. and Mrs. Kikuchi told us that the scenery around the farm and beautiful sunset and sunrise always move their heart and never get used to it.
▲The factory and direct sales store. They also do regional shipping. Check their website for the details.
I asked about the kind of cheese they pursue, and they answered me like this:
“When people had something good during the day and have Chikapu’s cheese for night snack with a drink, they feel dairy wine more delicious than usual. And they think they will do the best on the next day. The cheese becomes an energy for tomorrow. I want to produce cheeses like that.”
“As we keep making cheese that ourselves feel delicious using local milk, we will be able to produce the local flavor.”
▲Chikapu’s cheese fan spread all over Japan. Local customers visit the direct sales shop often, too.
Chikapu’s cheeses have cute illustrations of wild birds, and they are perfect for gifts, too. The flavor of cheeses made with seasonal pasture-raised milk will give you energy for tomorrow.
Text / Hokkaido Likers photo writer Yuki Konishi
Photo / Hokkaido Likers photo writer Minako Takada
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