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Day 6, Murakami, Sake

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

It isn’t the sake you are thinking of. I’m referring to this sake.

Can you guess what “sake” means in Japanese? Yes, it means salmon. From the moment we got off the train, we were deluged with imagery of salmon. I started to wonder why. I assumed it meant that this town had a tradition of salmon fishing or something. We were given our answer at the restaurant we ate lunch at.

The restaurant had salmon hanging up drying outside. They were hung up under the eaves of the roof. It was unreal.
So our guide came to meet us at the restaurant and started to take us around Murakami. On our way we stopped at a temple and the guide explained to us that this used to be the old gate into the town.

Our guide was leading us to the Iyoboya Museum. However, on our way we stopped at a store. A salmon store.

The store represents the modernization of the traditional preparations methods of salmon used by the people of Murakami. Usually they don’t do tours, but our guide asked and we were led upstairs to the drying room. It was pretty awesome.

After our visit to the store, we were then led across the street to the Iyoboya Museum.

Iyoboya is how the people of the area refer to salmon. Our guide told us that this place is responsible for the breeding of salmon. Every year they then release the fish. The museum was very interesting. On our way out we were stopped by the museum staff and asked if we would allow the museum to put us on their blog. Of course this was okay with us seeing as how we would be putting the museum onto our blogs. Unfortunately it is in Japanese but we are the second post down on the March 14th. Check it out! Iyoboya Museum

On our way to the next area, we walked through Murakami’s “Dera machi,” which basically means Temple District. It had several temples all in a row. We stopped by one temple.

Before coming to Niigata I have never noticed elephants being used as decorations. But throughout all of Niigata, these elephants keep popping up.

Then halfway through the Temple District we get to a street that has all black walls. What the city did was they painted boards of wood black and then attached them to the concrete. Basically it was a beautification project for the town. Here is a picture demonstrating what they did.

This building is an inn. As we walk past our guide starts to explain it was an inn that the poet “Matsuo Basho” stayed at. In college I was captivated by what Basho did and the thought of being able to enter the inn and see the room was too much. So I asked the staff if I could see the room. Sure enough they brought me up.

Apparently the building isn’t the original but they did show me the room that he probably would have stayed at.

Then we stopped at a museum.

Then we stopped at the house of a samurai.

Then we stopped on a shopping street and stopped into a store that produces sake the traditional way. This guy loves his job.

We then stopped at a wood carver’s store. He was working on a dish that the area is famous for making.

Then on the way to the hotel we stopped at a tea house. This is a famous tea house. It literally had the best green tea I’ve ever had in my life. And the owner of the store let me hold his samurai sword.

We then got back to the hotel in time to go down to the outside bathes and watch the sunset.

Today was a pretty good day.