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Food, fun, and farming in a stunning mountain locale

Region:

Hakuba’s tradition of welcoming visitors is as old as the town itself. Rising from humble origins as a series of way-stops along the Chikuni Highway, Hakuba offered rest and lodging to people traveling between the mountains of Shinano province and the Sea of Japan. Due to the town’s high elevation and cold climate, traditional Hakuba cuisine places special emphasis on preserving food for the winter months. Fermentation and other preservation methods have been handed down through the generations, forming the backbone of local food culture—a culture to which residents ascribe their exceptional health and longevity.

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Regional foods: Soba

At 760 meters above sea level, Hakuba’s high elevation, cold climate, and clear, alpine streams together form a setting which imparts superior flavor to the locally grown buckwheat known as “Hakuba soba.” Flour ground from the soba is used in several regional specialties, and a soba festival is held every autumn. Soba noodles (often simply called “soba”) are served by numerous shops in town and may be eaten hot or cold. Hakuba locals will insist, however, that the crisp air of winter brings out the noodles’ best flavor.

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Regional foods: Hakuba galettes

In addition to soba, Hakuba specializes in a kind of seaweed called ego. Collected along the nearby coast of the Sea of Japan, ego can be dried for preservation. To prepare it, chefs boil the ego until it is smooth and thick, then pour it into a mold to set. A natural gelatin-like substance in the seaweed causes the ego to solidify. Once cool, it is sliced and topped with a miso-based sauce before eating. A recent addition to Hakuba’s culinary specialties is the galette. Using batter made from local buckwheat, Hakuba galettes are cooked thin and wrapped around a variety of toppings.

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Scenery: Three peaks of Hakuba

The landscape of Hakuba is dominated by three majestic summits: Shirouma, Shakushi, and Hakuba-yari. At elevations of 2,933; 2,820; and 2,909 meters respectively, the three peaks form a striking backdrop to the Hakuba valley. Through the valley runs the Himekawa River, flowing down from its source on Mount Shirouma. The Oide suspension bridge crosses the Himekawa and leads to an area of thatch-roofed private homes. While beautiful in all seasons, the river view is particularly lovely in spring, when blooming cherry trees are framed against the towering mountains.

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Activities: Whitewater rafting on the Himekawa River

As host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba can rightly claim to be one of the world’s finest locations for winter sports; the valley holds over 200 ski-and-snowboard runs with excellent vertical rise and breathtaking views of the three peaks. But outdoor adventures are not limited to winter—summer visitors can go paragliding, raft the Himekawa River, and hike up the snow-covered valley of Hakuba Daisekkei to the summit of Mount Shirouma. Around town, there are countless cultural activities: locals give hands-on instruction in making soba noodles, planting rice seedlings, and picking Chinese lantern fruit.

Inquiries

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Name Tourism Commission of Hakuba Village
URL http://www.hakubavalley.jp/index_english.html