It is a warm, July summer's day. We are amidst the hustle and bustle of Otaru's inconspicuous yet renowned seafood market, Sankaku. The market is positioned conveniently next to Otaru Station and is best known for its fresh sashimi, Hokkaido crab, uni (sea urchin) and ikura (roe). In other words, a seafood lover's dream.
The market is one long passageway and runs on a slope. People filter in and out through the openings at either end. Stall holders are set up to our left and right, with only about 2 metres separating them. At first we notice the colourful price tickets hung everywhere, and the comforting buzz of stallholders trying to catch the attention of passersby. Intermixed between stalls are small restaurants, each with just as long of a queue of people patiently waiting to be seated. "Of course, it's nearly lunchtime" we affirm. Tourists continue to bustle up and down the aisle in a moderate haste, hungry for seafood bowls.
We get the sense of being underground but without the same feeling of claustrophobia. There is too much excitement in the air to feel uneasy. We spot our MnK Chef, Johan, across the way. He's checking out all the seafood set out proudly on display; big blue water-filled tubs brimming with crabs the size of your head, generously portioned containers of uni sitting upon beds of ice, and dried fish organised in perfect rows.
But the real reason we're here is to meet Bobby, Mam and their crew, the team behind popular Thai television series MamBob Let's Go. Today is the first day of their 3 day, jam packed itinerary of the Niseko region, and they'll be using The Orchards as their base for the next few days. Johan is here to guide them through the market and pick up ingredients for their in house dining experience planned for later that evening. The TV series they produce aims to promote local products, destinations and attractions of the cities they visit. As presenters, they are every bit as vivacious, good-humoured and cheerful as you'd expect. We quickly see why their program is so loved.
We pick up our supply of crab and uni, and begin the 1 hour and 30 minute journey back to Niseko by car, making sure to pass through the scenic towns of Niki (仁木町 Niki-chō) and Yoichi. However, it's not long before we're stopping to handpick cherries, the town's representative fruit, straight off trees at a local orchard. The allure of summer fruits is too hard to resist. In addition to cherries, you can pick apples, prunes, grapes, blueberries, plums, pears and other fruits at various times of the year in Niki.
It's time now for the MamBob team to check in to their Orchards properties and settle in for an evening of the Chef's omakase, meaning "I will leave it up to you". In the comfort of their own chalet, Johan prepares a range of culinary treats using ingredients sourced from the market. Dishes for the evening include daikon pickles with Yoichi cherry vinegar, Hokkaido uni with avocado edamame, scallops with corn miso and salmon roe, and finally a King crab, bisque rice pot. All of which are equally enjoyed, and the evening goes down a hit.
Mam and Bobby settle into day 2 with a coffee at our on-site coffee cart, Cedar Coffee Co. It's not long before they are up and about, exploring the grounds of The Orchards with the EdVenture kids camp crew. The Orchards also happens to be the home base for our multi-activity summer and winter kids camp experience that welcomes children from all over the world. Mam and Bobby learn that the camp has been running for the last 8 years, and hidden at the back of the resort, surrounded by tranquil forest, is a kid-friendly tree trekking course. Children, young teenagers and their families make their way out to Niseko for a week long adventure throughout the summer season. The week is made up of child only, or child and parent/guardian outdoor activities, excursions and classes, concluding with an overnight camping experience. Today is just a taste of what families can expect on the much-loved summer program.
It's lunchtime now, and the crew has a table reserved at local Niseko town restaurant, Kagra. Fusing Western and Japanese cuisine, the menu is centred around fresh seafood sourced directly from those who catch it, a sea to table experience if you will. Closed on Tuesdays, Kagra seats up to 70 people with the average price per person set at ¥1,000 – ¥5,000. If the idea of sashimi rice bowls, grilled salmon, grilled chicken and other seasonal delights excite you, then Kagra is the place for you. Service is friendly, and the atmosphere is inviting. A private function room and big open space makes the restaurant ideal for families or large groups.
The day's final activity is with Bouken Kazoku, white water rafting but with a slight twist. Instead of riding down the Shiribestu River on ready-to-go rubber boats, the MamBob crew are informed they need to build their own rafts using tire tubes, wooden planks and bamboo poles, all held together by rope. This family friendly activity known as Ikada Rafting, is much loved by our EdVenture families. Mam, Bobby and the team soak up the incredible sights as they float along the Shiribetsu River, splashing each other with the crystal clear, freezing cold water along the way.
As the final day of the Niseko portion of their trip, the MamBob crew prepare for their NAC Adventure Park experience. The Adventure Park is one of the newest additions to Niseko's summer activity repertoire, and easily one of the most exhilarating. An obstacle course among the trees, that includes over 100 elements and makes up an area of 9,265 sqm. Featuring zip lines, ladders and more, participants can choose between 8 courses, each progressively harder than the next. Height and weight restrictions apply. Believe it or not, the experience is also open in winter so be sure to check it out for yourself if you're looking for something new to try this season. Visit the NAC Adventure Park website for more details.
No trip to Niseko is complete without a stop at Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm, home to the famous Milk Kobo. Indulge in Hokkaido cheese tarts, cheesecakes, seasonal roll cakes, ice cream and other sweets, all made fresh on site using dairy produced by the farm's cows. Sure to be a winner with the entire family. Feeling satisfied, and with a modest sugar rush, lunchtime hits and it is time to check out Prativo, also situated on the same lot. With easily one of the best views of Mt Yotei on offer at any restaurant in Niseko, what makes Prativo even more unique is its all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. With a wide variety of fresh vegetable dishes, assorted desserts, and milk yoghurt on tap, this is an ideal lunch spot for hungry bellies. For lunch, choose one main dish and have free rein of the seasonally rotating buffet spread for ¥1,650 per adult.
Back to The Orchards for check out time, and time to say goodbye to the crew before they head off on their next adventure in Hokkaido. We had a blast showing Bobby and Mam from the MamBob Let's Go - แหม่มบ๊อบเล็ตสโก crew, the wonders of Hokkaido and having them join us at The Orchards this summer.
Special thanks to Nac Adventure Park, Niseko Milk Kobo, 寿都アンテナショップ神楽, and Bouken Kazoku for helping us share how beautiful summer here can be. All images and video footage are kindly provided by MamBob TV.
You can catch up on all of MamBob Let’s Go on their YouTube channel here.