Release | みふねたまき（Tamaki Mifune）
Relax at Green saso in Hirafu Niseko and enjoy delicious green tea and Japanese desserts
It is now the best season to go for a drive on weekends. There are many recommended destinations, but today, I would like to introduce my hidden gem in Niseko, one of the most famous resorts in Hokkaido, where you can relax and enjoy delicious green tea and Japanese desserts.
The name of the cafe is “Green saso”. It’s a Japanese tea specialized cafe which is quite unique in Hokkaido.
A cafe along a small stream and surrounded by white birch forests
▲Found a building in the back of white birch trees.
▲The sign of “Green saso” on a white birch tree. It seems like we are in the right place.
“Green saso” is located at the foot of Mt. Yotei. It is about two minutes drive from the Hirafu ski slopes area where many hotels, condominiums, and restaurants are located. The cafe is one of the buildings in the cottages area located on the mountainside from Hokkaido Road no. 343.
The building faces the stream along the white birch forests. Look for the sign saying “Green saso”.
The manager of the shop is Stephanie Watanabe. The family moved to Niseko and opened “Green saso” in January 2016. The cafe makes us relaxed with beautiful views from the window and interior with lots of wood textures.
Stephanie carefully prepares teas with water boiled in a Japanese teakettle and welcomes guests.
▲Stephanie Watanabe preparing a cup of tea with beautiful motions.
▲The cafe has a relaxing atmosphere with greens outside. The photograph piece on the wall is a work of Junichiro Watanabe, her husband.
▲A couch and stump stool near the wood-burning stove. You can spend nice relaxing moments.
Became a Nihoncha (Japanese tea) Advisor from her interests to tea culturesStephanie became interested in Japanese tea culture when she first visited Japan in 2000. When she arrived in her new post as an English teacher in Yamaguchi Prefecture, she was invited to a tea party through her friend. The party was held in a traditional tea room with a beautiful garden. She enjoyed Kaiseki cuisine and matcha in the end. She experienced the traditional tea party and was fascinated by the unique manners and hospitality.
“There are parties to enjoy delicious foods and drinks in other countries, but I felt the Japanese tea party is something completely different. It was almost like a meditation… I felt it was a very magical experience.” Stephanie said.
After that, she got interested in Japanese tea and cultures around teas.
After she finished her duty in Yamaguchi Prefecture and went back home to Canada, she returned to Japan in 2004 to learn more about Japan and the Japanese language. She stayed a short-term in Sapporo, where Junichiro Watanabe, who she had a relationship at that time, lived. She started her life in Hokkaido in 2005 as they got married.
▲Stephanie and Junichiro Watanabe.
“I was busy for a while to get used to life in Japan and raising my children.” Stephanie got back to Japanese tea after she went back to Sapporo because of Junichiro’s work.
She participated in a Japanese tea class and enjoyed tea tasting sets at a cafe with a Nihoncha (Japanese tea) Instructor. She then remembered how she loved Japanese tea.
After the class, her affection for Japanese tea came back. As she lived in Japan and wanted to learn more about Japanese tea, she studied very hard and got the certification of Nihoncha (Japanese tea) Advisor.
▲Bonsai on a table - it’s one of the decorations to interact with Japanese culture.
▲She puts origamis near the windows made by her Japanese chef friend lives in Sapporo.
Moving to Niseko and opening a Japanese cafeStephanie and Junichiro both loved snowboarding. “We went to Niseko a lot since when we lived in Hakodate right after our marriage.” They fell in love with Niseko as they built a vacation house in Annupuri.
They started to think about moving to Niseko when Stephanie began studying for Nihoncha (Japanese tea) Advisor certification. Junichiro had a job in Sapporo, so the decision was not easy.
However, as they talked about the future of their families, they felt that living in Niseko would be more natural and attractive to them.
There were so many travelers from abroad in Niseko already, and many hotels and restaurants were built. But they felt that there are not many places to interact with Japanese cultures.
As Stephanie got Nihoncha (Japanese tea) Advisor certification, they opened the Japanese tea specialized cafe “Green saso” as they started their lives in Niseko.
▲A bag of green tea with the original label of Green saso. She will teach you how to prepare a delicious cup of tea.
▲The cafe sells carefully selected teas by visiting producing areas such as Fukuoka and Shizuoka.
Stephanie visits producing areas such as Yabusame City in Fukuoka Prefecture and Kanaya-Cho in Shizuoka Prefecture, etc., to select the tea leaves to provide in the cafe. Another attraction of Green saso is that you can encounter with some rare tea leaves such as ones with sakura leaves aroma.
“Each tea has uniqueness depending on breeds. I would like visitors to enjoy aroma and flavors of tea leaves itself, so I don’t provide blended teas.”
The flavor of Japanese tea prepared carefully with the famous Yotei water boiled in a teakettle is one of a kind. Stephanie gives tips to bring out the aroma and umami of tea so remember what she said to prepare like her at home.
Her homemade desserts such as matcha latte, hojicha latte, and parfaits are also highly recommended other than green tea. Matcha parfait uses plenty of high-quality matcha, and Oyaki is prepared one by one after the order. Both of them made me smile when I had a bite.
She is planning to prepare black sesame ice cream, sweet potato parfaits, and Oyaki with pumpkin creams. Those sound delicious, too.
▲The homemade matcha ice cream was very tasty! Mini matcha parfait and hojicha set. (1,200 yen)
▲Freshly made and hot! Matcha Oyaki with soy milk cream. (250 yen/piece)
Original matcha beer made from Stephanie’s idea is recommended for those who like tea but also alcoholic drinks. It blends different bitterness of hop and matcha and produces subtle flavors.
This is something for non-drivers but definitely a glass I would like many people to try.
Recently, we tend to enjoy bottled green teas, and we don’t use a teapot to prepare green teas. Some of them might not have a teapot at home. Discover the deliciousness of Japanese tea with the tea prepared by Stephanie.
“I would like not only foreigners but also Japanese people to learn more deeply about Japanese tea.” Stephanie said.
▲The original matcha beer prepared in an Mt. Yotei glass (900 yen)
Dish, accessories…. selected beautiful craftsThere is a gallery corner in the cafe in which she displays dishes and wooden crafts from all over Japan and mainly created by artists in Niseko. All of the products including Green soso original labeled green tea and socks are perfect for souvenirs of Niseko.
▲She displays and sells crafts such as dishes and accessories. Artists are mainly people in Niseko.
▲Accessories with Ainu prints embroideries are made by Asanekoya, an artist based in Niseko.
▲Teacup made with castor aralia is from Hatashikki in Ishikawa Prefecture. The wooden patterns and coloring are beautiful.
There is a guest house on the second floor of the cafe limited for a group per nightThose who would like to spend more time and don’t want to go home can stay on the second floor of the cafe because it’s a guest house! Space is comfortable with full of woods just like the cafe, and you can relax like you are at home.
There are BBQ space and outdoor bath in the white birch forests so you can enjoy the stay in Niseko like you are staying at a vacation house. The accommodation is limited to one group per night so make sure to book the room before visiting.
▲The guest house on the second floor of the cafe.
▲There is a climbing wall in the tatami room with beautiful views from the window.
▲The loft bedroom uses white birch branch as a handrail.
▲Their mascot dog Nupuri with curly hair and drooping ears is waiting for you with Stephanie!
Niseko will be quiet after the summer peak. Why don’t you visit Greeen soso to enjoy a quiet autumn? Cute Nupuri will welcome you.
Related LinkCheck the schedule of the cafe and reserve the guest house on their website.
Text / Hokkaido Likers writer Tamaki Mifune
Photo / cocoon photographs Mako Yoshikawa