Release | みふねたまき（Tamaki Mifune）
“SPROUT” - a coffee shop conveniently located close to Kutchan Station provides coffee for peoples’ connections
There must be many people who are always with a cup of coffee after the meal or during the break from work, no matter if you are at home or outside.
I would like to introduce “SPROUT,” a coffee shop in Kutchan-Cho. It’s a famous spot for outdoor fans in the Niseko area.
“SPROUT” is located at a few minutes walk from JR Kutchan Station. You can find the shop right away from the nice smell of freshly roasted coffee with the roaster by the glass window along the street towards the station.
When I entered the shop, noticing the welcoming atmosphere from the chairs put outside, Yukiko Toge came out with a warm smile.
Wishing to live in HokkaidoSPROUT is a coffee shop opened in December 2009 with the manager Yoshitaka Toge and his wife, Yukiko.
The shop will celebrate its 10th anniversary this winter. However, Yoshitaka and Yukiko are both from Chiba Prefecture. Why did they start a coffee shop in Hokkaido, where is far away from their hometown. Let me begin asking them about that.
“Both of us loved being outdoors, and we wished to live in Hokkaido one day. Especially my husband was working as a rafting guide in Chiba Prefecture, so Niseko was a dream place where he could be in outdoor throughout the year; rafting in summer and skiing in winter,” Yukiko told me.
Yoshitaka took the move first. He got a position at an outdoor shop in Niseko as a rafting guide in 2004, and Yukiko too moved to Niseko three years later as they got married. Both of them enjoyed the life with nature in Niseko for a while, working for outdoor shops.
▲Yoshitaka Toge, the manager of the shop.
Coffee and the outdoorThey were thinking of having a shop as a base of their lives from the moment they decided to move to Hokkaido. “There were no take away coffee shops in Kutchan at that time, so we were talking that it would be nice if we could open a shop with new style, mixing coffee and outdoor which we loved.”
▲The espresso machine.
▲There is a drawing of a man hiking on take away cups.
There will be conversations and connections between people will develop naturally with a cup of coffee.
“Coffee is one of the tools to communicate. We wanted to create a place where people can stop by to have some coffee, chat, and say see you again.” Yukiko said.
Many outdoor fans actually visit SPROUT, and the coffee shop has turned a place to exchange information, as they planned.
“We can get information about the fields such as the progress of autumn foliage and snow quality from who visited the place actually, not only from us. I feel people are connecting from our shop as regular customers start often chatting as they wait for the coffee.”
▲They want to make the place where anyone can use for multiple purposes, not only as a coffee shop.
They also visit various events such as sports, music, and parties as a shop called “coffee aid” from about five years ago.
“We bring the espresso machine and the grinder and put them to sell coffees. We also host talk events about trail running, ski tours, etc., at our shop. We always get stimulated from all encounters.” Yoshitaka said.
▲There are a variety of books, mainly outdoor related, on the shelf in the coffee shop.
Coffee sometimes makes people relax and other times charge powers. They are dreaming to support more and more people who try hard or who have fun by providing coffee to fit every scene.
The home-roasted specialty coffee
The shop now provides house blend coffee such as “Niseko Auto Route” and “Mt. Yotei” and single-origin specialty coffee which you can enjoy different local characteristics. They change the kind of beans seasonally, and customers can choose from various beans as they like to make espresso or drip coffee.
▲Single-origin specialty coffee
▲There is a board to explain the flavors of coffees on the counter.
▲The roaster put at the entrance of the shop.
All the coffee provided at the shop turned to home-roasted coffees from the last spring. Yoshitaka does the roasting.
“As we have continued the shop for about ten years, I came to think that I should do the roasting by myself if we are providing coffee. I participated in the overnight training about roasting and in the process of developing my skills as I exchange information with roasters all over Japan.”
Yoshitaka roasts coffee and all staffs including Yukiko does cupping. They discuss to create flavors that everyone would satisfy.
▲The shop is located along the street and has a welcoming atmosphere. The roasting area is in the glass-walled room.
“Thanks to Mr. Yokoi, who gave kindly gave us advice before opening the store. Now we can provide coffee.”
Yoshitaka and Yukiko admire Mr. Yokoi as the master of coffee. He is Chikara Yokoi, the president of “Kobo Yokoi Coffee”, the home-roasted coffee shop in Sapporo.
“The shop I worked for a part-time used Yokoi Coffee’s beans, and it was really delicious. So I wrote about my questions about coffees to the factory and Mr. Yokoi wrote me a three-page answer.”
They were grateful to his kind reactions so decided to provide Mr. Yokoi’s coffee at their shop, and they visited the factory in Sapporo. They got lots of advice with detailed lectures.
▲Kenji Miyazawa’s “Ame ni mo Makezu” is displayed on the wall of the roasting area.
“We are now home-roasting but still uses Mr. Yokoi’s raw beans. He values qualities and tells us to protect the flavor in Kutchan. He supports us very much, and I have no other words than thank you to him.” Yukiko said.
They created many goods and working on many projectsThey also sell original goods such as mugs and Nalgene bottles and products from their related outdoor shops.
“We try to put things that we can recognize the face of creators; the same as coffee. We select goods that we like, and we want to use. In that way, we can explain the goods to customers, and we can sell them without concerns.”
▲There are various goods on the shelf.
▲Their original mugs and Nalgene bottles.
▲They also have greeting cards and button badges with cute illustrations.
▲Cookies and nuts are perfect for a snack with coffee or energy food for outdoor activities.
They started involving into Local City Project by “DEPOT CYCLE & RECYCLE,” a bicycle shop in Ichikawa City Chiba Prefecture, where is the hometown of Yoshitaka and Yukiko, from this summer. They created “KUTCHAN CITY” T-shirts and sold at the shop.
▲“KUTCHAN CITY T-Shirt is a must-have item for Kutchan-Cho residents!
The project is to create casual relationships between cities with T-shirts with the same design. People with Urayasu City T-shirts and Ichikawa City T-shirts visited the shop, and they had a good time.
▲The illustrator Marina Tanaka in Sapporo creates the original goods and labels.
▲Marina also creates these cards.
Marina Tanaka, the illustrator who designed the logo of the shop and original goods, is one of the first customers of the coffee shop since the opening. “I think she was the teen at that time, but she said that she does drawings, so we asked for something. The relation with her continues since then. She did drawings on the coffee labels and menus on the blackboard.”
Many staffs who work for the shop used to be customers of the shop.
“We have common interests such as mountains and outdoors, but everyone is unique and attractive. There is a staff who works hard on music to liven up music industry in Niseko.
I feel like the shop is not ours, instead, many people come here and do what they like and that creates this wonderful place. I feel like everyone, including customers, are part of the shop.” Yoshitaka and Yukiko told me happily.
▲Mizue is one of the staffs.
▲Nice smile, everyone!
Yoshitaka and Yukiko pushed out fresh shoots - their dream to mix coffee and outdoor - in Kutchan Cho, and grew with many encounters and now took roots here.
I found a new place where I wish to visit again.
They also have an online store, and you can buy SPROUT’s coffee. Yoshitaka also updates blog posts.
They post photos to Instagram, too.
Text / Tamaki Mifune
Photo / cocoon photographs Asako Yoshikawa