September 03, 12 | Iwasaki
I had the joy of visiting the restaurant Elm Garden and its 1,000 square foot Japanese gardens during their “Firefly Evening” event on August 2nd and 3rd this year. At the event, held annually, customers can enjoy musical performances on shamisen and taiko (traditional Japanese instruments) while enjoying a delicious meal and appreciating fireflies gathered along the garden’s peaceful creek. The whole event felt like a traditional Japanese summer night from times long past.
The interior of the restaurant has been meticulously designed and decorated to create an atmosphere of perfect harmony. I was most surprised at a unique hospitality service in the waiting room area. Every morning tomato vines are trucked in from the Fujita plantation in Iwamizawa and displayed artfully in planting bags around the lobby, allowing customers to enjoy the taste of ripe tomato right off the vine. It’s details like this that really make the restaurant stand out.
While the tomato display seemed to be a more playful decoration, allowing visitors a bit of fun picking tomatoes while waiting. The serious hospitality really started when I received the “Oshibori” (a traditionally hot moistened towelette handed out after customers have been seated). After walking to your table through the exquisite, sweetly fragranced sandalwood hallways overlooking the Japanese gardens, each guest receives a scented oshibori. The scent used is called “Horikawa” and is from the Yoshiwa series from Shoei Temple in Kyoto, which was founded in 1705. This introduction to the meal really immerses guests in the peaceful, traditional Japanese atmosphere of the restaurant.
This year’s Firefly Evening event opened with a performance by a shamisen player. Accompanying this was a plethora of dishes each created with local seasonal ingredients carefully selected through discussions with the producers themselves. The chef’s creations really imparted the taste of Hokkaido’s four seasons.
As the night progressed we were treated to a taiko performance along with many other side dishes while enjoying the sight of the Japanese gardens during sunset.
To top off the night, as night’s cooling breezes chilled the air, we were able to enjoy the sight of fireflies over the garden’s creek. The staff at Elm Garden carefully raises and hatches the firefly larva to release at the end of spring so that visitors can enjoy the sight of their light in the gardens. It was truly a breathtaking and wonderful experience, leaving me wishing I could have stayed in the gardens all night.
※You can enjoy observing the fireflies in the Gardens from mid to late August. (Depending on each year’s weather the length of the viewing period may be shorter.)
5-10 Minai 13-Jyo Nishi 23-Chome, Chuou-ku, Sapporo
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Iwasaki)