Rural Sights, Sounds, Smells, and Tastes of Niigata2023.01.31
For instance, the other day, my friend and I hopped on bicycles for an impulsive spin around Minamiuonuma, Niigata. We rented two electric bikes at Ryugon, a traditional ryokan close to Niigata's splendid mountains and fertile farmlands. We spun our wheels with a desire to explore, breathe fresh air, and learn about the area.
We didn't need a map or specific plan because much of Niigata's countryside feels like an interactive open-air museum of Northern Japanese culture. The values and history of the people are evident in the friendly folk's gardens, farms, homes, and religious architecture.
The neighborhood had stories to tell. In Niigata's snowy regions, tall houses are typical. In years with deep snows, the second story serves as the entrance. I paused to photograph the brilliantly colored gardens around the homes. The farming and gardening impulse runs strong in the people of Niigata. Even those with city jobs often grow onions, daikon, potatoes, cabbage, yams, flowers, and fruit trees around their homes.
A clear trickling stream with small fish and slender green plants flowed behind a curving row of homes. We wheeled down a gravel road. Tied rice sheaves lay on the wet soil of some harvested fields. Herons, crows, and sparrows searched the ground for food within a stone's throw of farmhouses. Daikon and dried persimmon hung from the eaves.
The number of Niigata towns, cities, and businesses providing rental bikes is steadily growing. Also, cooking workshops are becoming more available. So please come and sample the rural sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Niigata. You're sure to have as great a time as I always do.
Written by Greg Goodmacher
After living in five countries and traveling to about twenty-five countries, I have settled in Japan. Deep snows, refreshing Japanese sake, ancient customs blended with modern technology, regional cuisines, fantastic arts and crafts, unique traditions, and magical festivals combine to create a country that fascinates me so much that I may never return to my home country, the US. Japanese onsens, in particular, have a hold on me. So far, I have bathed in more than six hundred locations between Hokkaido and Okinawa.