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Rice Cracker Kingdom

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Niigata is the top rice cracker producer in Japan.

Have you ever wondered how Japanese rice crackers are made? At the Niigata Rice Cracker Kingdom the history and production of Niigata rice crackers are explained. You can watch 2 staff roasting about 1,500 crackers a day each. Plus you have a chance to roast some crackers yourself.

On sale are two types of rice crackers: okaki (made from sticky rice) and senbei (made from normal rice). The okaki are softer and therefore said to be popular with old folks. The variety of flavours, such as soy sauce, sugar, salt, cheese, salad, lemon etc., suit many tastes. The entrance to the hall is free but rice cracker roasting (including the crackers) costs Yen 400 per person. There are 2 types of sauces, one sweet and one savoury. The freshly-roasted crackers still dripping with sauce are so tasty.

 
Entrance to the "Rice Cracker Kingdom" and cute cracker mascots "Balin" and "Bolin" who guide visitors through the Kingdom and the rice cracker making process.

 
How it was done in the old days versus modern-day rice cracker roasting.

 
Roasting rice crackers yourself is fun. The freshly-made crackers taste excellent.

Niigata Furumachi Geigi

Niigata's geisha are the "Furumachi Geigi"

Furumachi, a district of Niigata City, was said to be one of the three main geisha entertainment districts (hanamachi) in Japan before World War II, competing with well-known Gion in Kyoto and Shimbashi in Tokyo. The geisha of Furumachi are called geigi and their tradition is dating back 300 years.

During the Edo Period Niigata was a flourishing port town and Furumachi was the commercial and entertainment center. Today the area is found around Furumachi Street, flanked by Nishibori Street and Higashibori Street.

Furumachi has preserved its geigi tradition until today. The old atmosphere is mainly gone but there are still some restaurants where those customers who can afford it are served by geigi.

An affordable alternative is offered  as "Niigata Hanamachijaya", a one hour performance on the 32nd floor of Toki Messe. Two geiki demonstrate some geigi dances. (Yen 1,000 including one drink)

There are many Japanese cuisine restaurants in Furumachi, including sushi, onigiri, soba and ramen restaurants. This is THE place for lunch or dinner.

Toki Messe Observatory

Top aerial view over Niigata City

Niigata was and still is one of Japan's main port cities. Hence, the city is down-to-earth practical and commercial. It spreads out on the banks of the Shinano River and the Agano River and it is right by the Sea of Japan.

From the 32nd floor observatory of Toki Messe, an international convention center, one has an excellent view over the city and can appreciate its location: the sea in front and a fertile plain in the back stretching to the mountain range in the distance. On a sunny day, one can even see Sado Island off the coast.

Freshest sushi and sashimi

Niigata is a seafood paradise

You better like eating fish and seafood when you come to Niigata as the best that the sea has to offer is served up there.
Being located right at the Sea of Japan, Niigata's fresh fish and seafood supply is plenty, in fact it is never ending providing visitors with one superb seafood-based breakfast, lunch and dinner after another.  All sorts of fish are served, most of which I had never even heard of. Tingle your taste buds with the most delicious fish ever eaten in Japan.

Food Point: Kiwami Sushi
Being located right at the Sea of Japan, fish and sea food on offer at Niigata's restaurants are super fresh. This makes for top-grade sushi (kiwami). There are frequently some campaigns whereby a number of first-class sushi restaurants in the Furumachi area of Niigata City offer sushi lunch sets.

Restaurant Point: ESSA
This sea food restaurant on Higashibori Street has a large pool full of fish. Patrons can catch their "dinner" themselves. The fish will then be prepared and served. It can't get any fresher but don't get scared if you see the fish still moving on your plate.

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