SAPPORO Magazine – Issue 01-11: A Visit to Yosuke Akagi, Passionate Asparagus Farmer
Apr 19, 2021
Akaigawa Village is an agricultural wonderland that is also famous for being home to the Kiroro Ski Resort. One of the most well-known crops in the area is the asparagus from Yosuke Akagi’s asparagus farm. In the food world, chefs across the country wait in anticipation for his harvest each year. Nobumasa Mieda is one such chef, and supervises THE KNOT SAPPORO’s restaurant, LES BOIS. Prior to the opening of the hotel, Mieda visited Akagi’s field.
Text by Hiroe Morihiro,
Photo by Tsubasa Fujikura
Nobumasa Mieda × Yosuke Akagi
At Akaigawa Koropokkuru Village
Deep flavour on the plate comes from love on the farm
An asparagus farm with nothing but young pale green leaves is the sight that marks the first time in a long time that Nobumasa Mieda has stood on Yosuke Akagi’s farm. He watched as the leaves swayed like threads of silk in the breeze. Twelve years ago, Nobumasa met Akagi—and his white asparagus—through an acquaintance.
“As soon as the stem of Akagi’s fully grown asparagus hits the flame, an incredible odour emanates. When it’s cooked, you can taste both the astringency that is unique to the white variety yet also a very particular smoothness. I recall being shocked—in a good way. Since then, it has become a signature ingredient during the spring at Mieda.”
Akagi, who at 25 years old was already an aspiring asparagus farmer, says that much of the process is down to chemistry. The rich scent that had attracted Mieda is created by the sulphur contained in the soil. In order to achieve the ideal taste and aroma, soil analysis of the field is carried out to balance the trace elements of soil. When he has free time, Akagi will go out to the fields and just observe his asparagus. A pastime he can never tire of.
“Knowing your asparagus means you can give it the best treatment. We have also received organic certification from JAS—it is important to recognise the power of nature that asparagus harnesses already. Whether I’m asleep or awake, all I can think about is asparagus. I don’t consider my job to be one of a manager, bur rather something that allows me to do my hobby every day. ”
As he talks, Akagi laughs in an easygoing, carefree manner. His pure and honest devotion to asparagus is something that Mieda respects and admires. Having survived the often harsh environment that is the world of a chef, Akagi provides an alternative outlook on life and the world.
“The number of producers I deal with directly is actually very limited, so this is a rare relationship. I want to keep his asparagus for myself and don’t want to tell anyone about it. But I also want to brag about it’s brilliance, so it’s tough! Every year I challenge myself to create a dish with the asparagus that pays homage to the care and effort that Akagi puts into them. I cook it in a simple way that accentuates the scent and taste.”
He smiles as he shares this. For Mieda, who supervises the menu at LES BOIS, there was never any doubt that they would use the asparagus from Akagi’s farm. Although the white variety won’t be in season to begin, the vibrant summer green asparagus will be part of the Japanese-style breakfast until September. Then, next May, when the season restarts again, both Akagi’s white and green asparagus will be on the menu. They will be incorporated into a variety of dishes to add some colour to the table.
“THE KNOT is a unique hotel that is positioned between a business hotel and a full-service hotel, and I wanted to bring a sense of this uniqueness to LES BOIS too. We want to make it a place where you can enjoy not only the asparagus of course, but also the aromas and hyper-seasonal flavours that are distinctive to Japanese cuisine.”
A delicious food relay that connects producers to cooks to tables. LES BOIS is a sensory guidebook for your trip to Hokkaido.
Born in 1968 in Koshimizucho, eastern Hokkaido. After graduating from culinary school, he trained in Japanese cuisine and was appointed as head chef of “Japanese Cuisine Otowa” at the age of 24. He opened “Japanese Cuisine Mieda” in 2005, where he became celebrated for this ability to incorporate elements of Italian, Chinese, and French cuisines. In 2012, he was awarded one Michelin Star in the special Hokkaido edition. At THE KNOT SAPPORO, he supervises the LES BOIS restaurant.
Born in 1980 in Sapporo. At age six, he moved to Akaigawa Village with his parents who wanted to leave the city life behind. After attending university in Sapporo and working in Tokyo after graduation, he returned to Akaigawa Village with the dream of starting an asparagus farm. From spring through early summer, he and a crew of over 10 people harvest 500 kg of asparagus each day, which are shipped to restaurants in Tokyo and Sapporo.