The Exceptional Beauty and Gastronomy of the Snow Country
Tokamachi City is one of the world’s snowiest cities. This region is covered in deep snow for almost half the year – a microclimate which has nurtured a Snow Country culture with origins that trace back 5,000 years to the ancient Jomon era. Back then, while living in harmony with the snow and their plentiful natural surroundings, the Jomon people handcrafted kaen’gata doki, extravagant pottery which has today been designated the oldest pottery among Japan’s National Treasures. These precious artefacts symbolize the origins of Japanese culture and tell the historical tale of Snow Country Tokamachi. Unravel these ancient secrets while indulging the palate with the delicious flavors of a heavy snowfall region.
Local food: Hegi Soba
Since ancient times, as the farmer’s fields are buried beneath the snow during the long winter months, people living in Tokamachi City have woven textiles as a means of livelihood. Hegi Soba is a local delicacy inspired by this Snow Country way of life. It was born from an unusual idea to knead funori, a seaweed which local weavers were using as a glue in textile manufacture, into the soba, and this results in a firmer than usual noodle. Hegi Soba is presented on a handcrafted wooden tray known as a hegi, in neat coils intended to symbolize bundles of silk yarn, and the beauty of kimono.
Local food: Sansai (Mountain vegetables)
Glittering snowmelt water filters goodness through Tokamachi’s soils, helping to grow delicious Uonuma-Koshihikari brand rice, and sansai, edible wild plants picked from the mountain in spring. The people living here since the Jomon era have savored these flavors both by season and preserved through the winter. Accompanied by a cup of locally-brewed sake, it’s easy to understand why people have settled in this region since ancient times.
Scenery: Gimyo Rice Terraces
Tokamachi City’s satoyama landscape is home to the Hoshitoge Rice Terraces – chosen as “Number 1” of “30 Reasons to Go to Japan Before You Die” (tsunagu Japan) – and the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale, a contemporary art festival that has placed over 200 art installations throughout the entire region. As a unique chance for visitors to travel across rural Japan, seeking out artworks between rice terraces and mountain valleys, the Triennale provides a new way to discover the beauty of the original Japanese landscape.
Tokamachi is one of a select number of areas which specializes in both weaving and dyeing stages of kimono manufacture. The region’s intimate connection with kimono can be experienced at the annual Tokamachi Kimono Festival, and through guided tours of kimono factories which also offer hands-on experiences. Additionally, visitors can experience snow-inspired activities such as building a kamakura snow hut; spend a night in a traditional farm house; or savor the delicious tastes of local produce and sake, after bathing in one of the region’s many onsen, or hot spring. There are many ways to spend an unforgettable time in Tokamachi.
Sightseeing route: Tokamachi City Museum
The Tokamachi City Museum offers multilingual audio guidance through its exhibition space that showcases the history and culture of a heavy snowfall region, including the kaen’gata doki (Flame-style Pottery), one of Japan’s most ancient National Treasures. Visitors can also discover scenic rice terraces, which have earned a place among “Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages”, and soak away their fatigue at the Matsunoyama Onsen village, one of “Japan’s Big 3 Medicinal Onsen”, which offers delicious cuisine prepared from local ingredients and rice grown in the local rice terraces. Experience a beauty one can only find in a heavy snowfall satoyama region.
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