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Niigata prefecture


torakris
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Kakinomoto (edible kiku flowers) (Sorry I can't spell the English word for kiku :sad: .  Can you?)

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Strange as it may sound, I bought a pack of kakinomoto the other day for the very first time, mainly because it was on sale (98 yen).

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It has a crisp ("shaki shaki" in Japanese) texture, and my son says he likes it very much (it's sometimes served at school lunch).

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Are they bitter? I haven't eaten the yellow kiku ones in a while but I recall them being quite bitter.

No, not bitter at all. They are all about the texture.

The sauce that I made was:

1/2 cup (= 100 cc) dashi

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar (The original recipe called for 1 tbsp sugar).

The sauce was less sweet and wasn't sour, so my wife put some more sugar and some vinegar. But I liked my version. :angry:

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Kakinomoto (edible kiku flowers) (Sorry I can't spell the English word for kiku :sad: .  Can you?)

...chrysanthemum -- but if you wanted to sound "posh" then you'd just say "mums" :biggrin: My dad grew the yellow ones in our garden but I don't remember eating the flowers - just the green part of the plant.

Edited by Cheeko (log)
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I went to this small, local festival, "Shinmai Matsuri", today, first with my son and later by myself.

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Can you guess what this is?

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It's rice chaff. What are they going to do with it? I'll give you the answer later.

A line of people waiting to be served:

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I got mine!

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A shio musubi (salted rice ball), some pan-fried(?) vegetables, and clear soup with maitake (Ishizaka maitake!) and other stuff. The rice ball is, of course, made with Shiozawa Koshihikari rice! A real treat for any Japanese!

I had two brands of sake:

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A retro bus:

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Nuka momi (bran and chaff) kama:

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The answer to the question above: The chaff is burned to cook rice.

Small kama to use in a rice-related quiz:

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When I came back to the site, the rice was already cooked :sad: :

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A rice-related quize is under way:

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I was glad to find that I wasn't late to taste the rice cooked in the nuka momi kama:

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Look at the world's most expensive and tastiest rice:

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Two girls received the first prize:

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I bought these:

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Three packs of Ishizaka maitake, hand-made konnyaku, and purple sweet potato yokan.

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I bought a 5-kg bag of Koshihikari rice at a "home center" today

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not because I wanted it but simply because the Koshiibuki that I usually buy was sold out. :sad:

Edited to add: The 5-kg bag was 2,980 yen. The place of production on the label was simply "Niigata" (not "Uonuma" or "Minami Uonuma").

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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Can you guess what this building is?

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It's a bank. Cool, isn't it?

This is a doctor's office:

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If you want to see what it was like one year ago, click this.

These two buildings are on Bokushi Doori (Street). If you want to see what the street looks like, click this.

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I had two brands of sake:

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In the Shiozawa area, there are two sake brewries: Aoki Shuzo and Takachiyo Shuzo

Kakurei (left) is a brand of the former, while Makihata (right) is a brand of the latter.

This is the office of Aoki Shuzo, which is located on Bokushi Doori, mentioned earlier.

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This is the storehouse of the brewery:

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In front of the storehouse, there is a spring:

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Can you read the inscription?

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I went to this small, local festival, "Shinmai Matsuri", today, first with my son and later by myself.

Actually, this festival is part of the campaign that is running in the Shiozawa area (from October 1 to November 3).

The name of the campaign: Shiozawa Shinmai Campaign.

Here is the cover of the guide to the campaign:

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Map inside the guide:

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I'm planning to go to one of the twenty restaurants in the Shiozawa area that participate in the campaign and report back.

If you want to see the guide in more detail, here is the web version of it:

http://shiozawa.interwindow.net/

Scroll down and click the photo of the cover of the guide.

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I went to this small, local festival, "Shinmai Matsuri", today, first with my son and later by myself.

Some other features of the festival:

Echigo Mochi Buta (soft and juicy pork in Niigata):

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Close-up:

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Koshihikari beer, available at Kanazawaya liquor shop only:

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For more, click here.

Kinoko Shin Soba (buckwheat noodles made with newly cropped buckwheat, topped with a variety of simmered mushrooms)

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Close-up of the mushroom pot:

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My son ordered one. He said that the mushrooms were amandare (honey mushroom), maitake, and buna shimeji.

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When you get off at Shiozawa Station on Echigo Line, you will be greeted by this snow crystal pattern on the floor.

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Shiozawa Station:

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It looks almost desolate, but my wife says it's not unmanned.

When you walk down the main street, you will soon see this three-story wooden inn on your right.

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I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite buildings in Shiozawa.

In two or three minutes, you will come to an intersection with traffic lights. When you turn left, you will see Bokushi Doori, mentioned upthread. When you turn right, you will see Herb Doori (Street).

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The sidewalk on each side of the street is paved at intervals with tiles with different snow crystal patterns on them.

Some examples:

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As this board says,

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tiles with 35 different patterns are used, all from the book, "Hokuetsu Seppu" (Snow Country Tales), by Suzuki Bokushi, a writer who was born in Shiozawa in the Edo period.

This is Suzuki Bokushi Memorial Hall, located in Shiozawa.

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I like this wooden-structured building more than the exhibits.

To keep this post food-related, I'd like to stress that it's impossible to talk about the specialties of Shiozawa such as rice and sake without referring to snow.

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I will be in Japan in December, perhaps in Niigata.  I want to bring home (to California) 10kg of rice for my wife.  It seems like there are many varieties of koshihikari.  What's good and what's not so good?  Is there something specific I should target or just get Niigata koshihikari and that should be good enough?
Rice harvesting continues this week and it will probably end next week.

As I mentioned here

Shokumi (食味, palatability?, eating quality?) of a specific variety of rice produced in a specific location is determined through sensory evaluation by Japan Grain Inspection Association (Japanese only). A panel (group of assessors) determines the shokumi according to these factors: appearance, aroma, flavor, stickiness, and hardness.

Shokumi can also be determined with a shokumi kei (shokumi measuring instrument) or a texturometer.

Generally, rice is considered good if it is white, shiny, aromatic, sweet (becomes sweet when you chew it), sticky, and resilient.

rice is evaluated according these factors. It should be noted that depending on what you look for in rice, you may be disappointed by what is generally considered good rice by the Japanese. It should also be noted that rice is not sweet by itself. It will become slightly sweet when you chew it in your mouth due to the reaction between starch and saliva. What I mean is that good rice is not sweet rice.

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Here is some interesting information about Shiozawa Koshihikari rice.

http://www.shiozawa-green.jp/koshihikari.htm

The title is: Why is Shiozawa Koshihikari rice tasty?

The subtitle is: Is Shiozawa Koshihikari rice marbled?

Rough translation: The rice grain is largely divided into the endosperm at the core and the outer bran layers. These bran layers contain large amounts of amino acids and are therefore sources of umami! The Prefectural Centeral Laboratory(?) found that in high quality rice, these bran layers deeply enter the endosperm just like fat marbled in beef. They also found that in such rice, the starch granules in starch cells are small and are less likely to break cell membranes when the rice is cooked.

These factors cannot be expressed as numeric values with a palatability measuring instrument, and are the secrets of esoteric tastiness of Shiozawa Koshihikari.

Impressed? :biggrin:

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This is Uono River, which runs through the city, as seen from Maejima Bridge, just a one-minute walk from my house, against Mt. Hakkai:

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Opposite side, toward Yuzawa town:

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You can also see Mt. Kinjo (left) and Mt. Makihata (one of the 100 notable mountains in Japan, or 百名山 hyaku mei zan)

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Uono River is famous for sweetfish (ayu) angling. You can also fish iwana, yamame, nijimasu, and other freshwater fish.

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A photo of another Niitaka nashi (Japanese pear).

I personally like this variety very much because of its mild (not acute) sweetness.

This particular one, produced in Shirone city in Niigata, has a sugar content of 12.

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I measured the diameter, it was 10.5 cm.

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I went to this small, local festival, "Shinmai Matsuri", today, first with my son and later by myself.

Actually, this festival is part of the campaign that is running in the Shiozawa area (from October 1 to November 3).

The name of the campaign: Shiozawa Shinmai Campaign.

Here is the cover of the guide to the campaign:

gallery_16375_5_45908.jpg

Map inside the guide:

gallery_16375_5_69171.jpg

I'm planning to go to one of the twenty restaurants in the Shiozawa area that participate in the campaign and report back.

If you want to see the guide in more detail, here is the web version of it:

http://shiozawa.interwindow.net/

Scroll down and click the photo of the cover of the guide.

Of the twenty restaurants participating in the campaign, I selected Matsui Shokudo

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because they offer this special menu:

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From the menu, I selected the tempura and sashimi set meal.

The waitress brought this special kama, called kaori gama (fragrance kama):

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and set the timer to 30 minutes.

Later, she handed me this leaflet:

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Much later, after checking the timer, she brought the rest of the meal:

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The timer beeped and I opened the lid!

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Nothing like piping hot rice, especially when it comes straight from a kama!

The twenty restaurants in the Shiozawa area that participate in this Shinmai Campaign have this flag at the front:

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Four of the twenty offer a menu featuring this special kama.

REPEAT: IT'S 100% SHIOZAWA KOSHIHIKARI RICE, AND IT'S SHINMAI! (Sorry for shouting. :raz: )

Edited to add: The rice is 1 gou (= 180 ml = approx. 140 to 150 g).

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

November 3rd is Culture Day (Bunka no Hi) in Japan. This day is a special one for Shiozawa because Shiozawa Sangyo Matsuri (Shiozawa Industrial Fair) is held on this day each year.

Flyer:

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Echigo Mochi Buta booth:

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Echigo Mochi Buta is soft and juicy pork, a specialty of Niigata, as this board says:

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Shiitake and nameko mushroom sawdust beds:

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I wanted to buy some, but they were too bulky to carry.

Shokumi kensa (palatability inspection) booth:

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Bring 300 g of your brown rice, and they will measure its palatability.

Seppu Miso, made from locally produced soybeans, and it's additive-free.

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I just had to buy one. Beside, these people are acquaintances of mine.

My children made manju.

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Hakka tou (Japanese mint candies), a specialty of Shiozawa. You can have as many as you can get for 200 yen.

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Do you know what this is? Daihatsu Midget! It will make those Japanese who were born in the 30s of Showa nostalgic for the good old days.

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Giant pot used to make soup:

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By the time we got there, the soup was all gone!

Mochi making began. First kneading the steamed mochi rice well:

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Then pounding in rhythm:

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Some of our purchases:

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Top, left to right: Enoki take (new variety called Yuki Boushi), Hakka Tou

Bottom, left to right: Seppu Miso, brown enoki, kodai mai (lit. ancient rice) called kaori mai

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I am SOOOOOO jealous of hiroyuki's pear. I bet when you slice it up and bite into a piece the juice drips down your chin, wahhh I am making myself sad. All the asian pears I have seen this year have a more green colour to them and are incredibly small. Then again I am looking in the chinese stores. I can eat a whole box (12) of those pears in a few days.

do your pears come in styrofoam netting? My boyfriend calls those "fruit socks"

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I am SOOOOOO jealous of hiroyuki's pear.  I bet when you slice it up and bite into a piece the juice drips down your chin, wahhh I am making myself sad.  All the asian pears I have seen this year have a more green colour to them and are incredibly small.  Then again I am looking in the chinese stores.  I can eat a whole box (12) of those pears in a few days. 

do your pears come in styrofoam netting?  My boyfriend calls those "fruit socks"

The Japanese often peel fruits before eating, and I am no exception. The juice ran down my wrist when I peeled that pear (naturally) :biggrin: .

That variety, Niitaka, is particularly big; other varieties are smaller, probably about 7-8 cm in diameter.

Peaches are often sold in styrofoam netting because they are highly susceptible to bruises, but other fruits are:

Sold individually without netting,

Prepackaged in plastic bags (containing four or five pieces or more), or

Prepackaged in plastic containers or plates, which are collected at the register.

That particular pear was sold individually.

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As I stated previously, Hakka Tou はっか糖 (Japanese mint candy) is a specialty of the former Shiozawa town. There are five sweet shops in the present Shiozawa area that make and sell this specialty. The history of Hakka Tou dates back to the Edo period, but the full-scale sale of the candy began in the Meiji period, when the use of large amounts of sugar was made possible.

This is the present (12th) president of Aoki Shoten, one of the five shops. He is so intent on making high-quality Hakka Tou that he has been designated a "shoku no takumi" (food artisan) by AEON Co., Ltd. (a private company).

My children made manju.

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Hakka Tou of Aoki Shoten:

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Inside the shop:

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Former president of the shop, now retired:

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The former president kindly talked to me about the history of Hakka Tou, his self-made mint oil, and other matters.

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Unfortunately, the shop now uses imported mint crystal, as well as the other shops.

If you should ever come to Shiozawa, be sure to get Shiozawa Koshihikari rice, local sake (Kakurei from Aoki Shuzo and Takachiyo from Takachiyo Shuzo), and this specialty, Hakka Tou!!

Don't buy cheaper, low-quality ones produced in surrounding areas. Say that you want SHIOZAWA Hakka Tou!

Note that different mint candies are sold by the same name, Hakka Tou, in Japan. The specialty of Shiozawa is white, light, chalk-shaped, about 1 cm in diameter and 5 cm in length, and literally melts in your mouth due to the numerous little holes that run through it. All my family likes it; it's kind of addictive.

Edited to add: Don't forget Shiozawa pongee and other Shiozawa fabrics.

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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Thanks for sharing these pictures and the experiences -- especially that tempura dinner and the kaori kama. It looked like it was delicious. So much nicer to see these pictures and read these entries than picking through a Fodor's guide :biggrin:

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Thanks for sharing these pictures and the experiences -- especially that tempura dinner and the kaori kama.  It looked like it was delicious.  So much nicer to see these pictures and read these entries than picking through a Fodor's guide  :biggrin:

Thank you for your compliment :smile: , but one correction: It was a lunch not a dinner. (I really felt guilty for eating out alone... :sad::biggrin: )

***

These are Shinkou (新興 in Kanji) pears. I bought them today for 198 yen a piece. They were about 9.5 cm in diameter, a little bit smaller than Niitaka.

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I had long assumed that this variety was a relative of Niitaka (新高), but I was wrong!

また、“新興”は昭和初期に新潟県園芸試験場で二十世紀の偶発実生から得られた品種で、既に70年以上経過していますが、品質や食味が優れ、また長持ちする大変優良な品種です。

from here.

It is a mutant of Nijjuseiki!

Edited to add: We had one of them after supper and found it wasn't sweet at all!! :angry::angry: I must make a complaint to the producer.

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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