Enjoy-Niigata:::Niigata prefecture tourism guide:::

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Day 1 - Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture

Mar. 9 ~15, 2010 - Experiencing the Culture of Snowy Regions and Sake Tasting by Brayton

Day 1 has ended. My day started this morning when I woke up, anxious to be going on my first real vacation trip. I woke up with Kana and decided to head out with her at around 7 in the morning. The trains were crowded. Since I had a relatively large suitcase with me, I wasn’t too happy about this. But when I arrived at Tokyo station I was in for a pleasant surprise. I got in line and waited for the bullet train to arrive.

After everyone got off the train, staff were given about 10 minutes to clean. Then we were allowed onto the train. I went to my seat. Fortune had smiled upon me. My ticket was for a window seat. I put my suitcase and bags down and went outside to take a picture of the LCD panel on the side of the train. “For Niigata.” I thought it was a rather fitting beginning to my trip. So I took my picture and went back to my seat. Fortune had smiled upon me once again. No one sat down next to me. This means I could stretch my legs a little bit. I then got out “Snow Country” and started reading. I then got a little tired and decided to shut my eyes. Around this time, the train went into a tunnel. The opening line of “Snow Country” remarks how “upon leaving the tunnel, I was in snow country.” I eagerly awoke, waiting for my sudden magical transportation into snow country. Unfortunately, upon leaving the tunnel I was still in Japan. I closed my eyes again. But then we went into another tunnel. This time we didn’t come out of the tunnel for quite some time. I became excited again. Perhaps this is the tunnel he was referring to? Then the train crew announced we were going to be arriving at the station soon. But we still weren’t out of the tunnel yet. I quickly got out my camera and prepared to take a picture, snow or no snow. The tunnel started to become bright. Suddenly we were out.

I have arrived in snow country.

After arriving at the station, we were hurried off to our first activity of the day. A tour of the Shirataki brewery. We watched a video in the showroom and then we were shown around the brewery. I certainly do like the smell of sake. However, during the tasting I was having some difficulty drinking the sake. I don’t know what it is but I just don’t like the taste of sake that much. I did enjoy the brewery tour and having the chance to take a ton of pictures. May at some point during the trip I will find a sake that I can enjoy drinking.

I’m also on a sake related quest. I’m interested in finding out which sake each area of Niigata drinks. The area I’m in right now seems to drink a local sake called Kakurei. So I’m on a quest to see what is the best sake in Niigata.

After our trip to the brewery we were whisked off to a mountain gondola. We got some passes and went up to the top of Eichigo Yuzawa Kougen. Known for the skiing, there is also an awesome Italian restaurant at the top of the mountain. This is where we ate lunch. But not before taking a couple of pictures.

I love the snow. I haven’t been to a snow covered mountain in Japan before. It was beautiful.

After lunch we had to quickly go off to the next destination. Here I would be learning how to make buckwheat noodles.

It was interesting and very hard. Preparing the dough of the noodles was a little like making bread dough. But it was a lot tougher and then eventually became soft. After cutting the dough into noodles as you see in the picture above, I was able to eat the noodles. There was also a reporter here to do an interview. Was asked a lot of questions and I will eventually be getting a copy of the paper. At least I think so.

After this we came back to town to try more sake. I mentioned in a previous post that I would be visiting a kind of sake museum with a wall of sake dispensaries. This is where we went. And as you can see, there were a lot of sake. There was easily well over 100 different kinds.

I tried 5 different kinds. Most of what I tried was recommended to me by teachers from school. I however, don’t really like sake. And that didn’t change magically during the middle of the day. I will say this though. At the brewery, one of the first samples we were given was very easy to drink. It was basically like drinking water. But as the sake goes up in quality, my enjoyment goes down a little. I’ve been told though that we will be going to a sake tasting festival this Saturday. So maybe I can find something there. This is after all a learning experience.

After touring inside the station a little we returned to the hotel.

At this point I was very tired and wanted to sit down. I came into my room and got a sudden shutter bug itch. I took lots of pictures of the interior. Including the private bath.

The private bath was very nice. I can’t recommend it enough.

So that was how my day went in general. During the evenings I’m going to write these really general summary type posts. Then as the week goes on, when I have time, I’m going to try and write more about each spot a little more in depth. So today is going to be hard to top. I had a lot of fun and saw a lot of amazing things. I can’t wait to see what else Niigata has to offer. Stayed tuned! Goodnight.