- 3 min read

Rustic Bouken-Kazoku in Kutchan

Foraging for free food

Bouken-Kazoku, located at junction that leads to Niseko and Kutchan, is a former military school turned traditional inn and activities center owned and operated by Anan Keiso. Originally from Japan’s southernmost major island of Kyushu, Anan san and his family have been on the property, which they lease from the government, for the past 21 years. The property and building serve as a traditional inn complete with tatami rooms, activities center (indoor and outdoor), campsite, traditional Japanese restaurant and organic vegetable farm. They even build and light up “kamakura” snow huts for those that enjoy outdoor activities in the winter.

On my visit to the center I was welcomed into the restaurant area, which was closed for the day, where I sat down with Anan san, shared a cup of delicious organic green tea and sat by the warm, wood-burning stove that crackled with pieces of dry birch wood cut from a nearby grove. The center’s primary focus is to provide local-centric activities during the summer to high school students and families with younger children. It is also welcomes visitors from other regions of Japan and overseas.

The center sits in the shadow of Mt.Yotei, often referred to as “Ezo Fuji” for its uncanny resemblance to Japan’s most famous mountain - Mt. Fuji — and is located in close proximity to number of natural attractions. Fishing for rainbow trout or rafting in the nearby rivers is popular, as is covering oneself in restorative volcanic mud and then rinsing off in a natural hot spring. Trekking and wildlife photography, particularly for ornithology enthusiasts, is popular as there are a number of bird species in the area.

As summer season gets into full swing Bouken-Kazoku’s organic vegetable garden produces onions, mushrooms and tomatoes just to name a few. On my tour of the grounds I was treated to some of the local, edible plant-life that grows wild throughout the property (and is used in the restaurant). As we walked past the outdoor campsites and the traditional outdoor Japanese bath, Anan san bent down and picked a leaf off of a wild onion. The taste was pungent yet delicious and for the next twenty minutes or so I was handed, and consumed, various herbs and plants used in everything from miso soup to herbal tea.

From the rusted Massey-Ferguson tractor to the roosters crowing in the chicken coup, the country charm of Bouken-Kazoku was a welcoming stop along my Niseko travels. I was told that the majority of visitors are Japanese but that everyone is welcome to visit. The summer season is just around the corner and I can’t help but recommend that you stop by and visit and perhaps take advantage of the activities and the local fare the center has to offer.

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