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Echigo Yuzawa: Deep in Koide

Last friday I took holiday and went up to Echigo Yuzawa for a day.    It's only my umpteenth visit there, but no matter how many times I visit I always discover something new.    This time around I visited some old eats and a nice new onsen hotel.    Here, is a good preliminary.  I also stopped through to pick up a nice sake cup.   Of course, you must buy one.  The souvenir shop in Echigo Yuzawa Station has an amazing selection of fine sake ware.

Here's more train eye candy:

The thing to remember when visiting Niigata is the soba.   Sure, there are other well known local favorites, but if you had to narrow down your range of choices then you must try "hegi-soba."   Just like other soba (buckwheat noodles) the noodles are thin and delicate.   With hegi they are the same but are made with funori, a type of seaweed.    The best way to enjoy eating hegi is to go to a restaurant, not convenience store bought hegisoba.    In this picture you can see how it's arranged in a traditional server so that it's easier to pick up and eat.   At the bottom is yukiguni maitake tempura, a lightly battered lightly fried edible mushroom.   Noodles were excellent.


Fukujuan is a mom & pop eatery that's been around for a few decades and is a favorite among locales and travellers alike. I've been there four times.  What's also popular to eat at this place is the soba and the tempura. The shrimp tempura and soba are serviced in large portion sizes and are freshly made to order. The service is a bit slow, but the food is good. Sake is good, too. They keep a small selection of locally brewed sake in a small fridge near the kitchen entrance.   Probably the only thing I didn't like about this place is at how they served sake; I much prefer to drink sake from a traditional sake cup rather than a glass. Other than that, you can get full easily on delicious food. The prices are reasonable, not cheap. No service available in English, but if you can point at the pictures on the menu you should have no problems.

Always remember, the first order of business when disembarking the train at Echigo Yuzawa Station.  That is, you must take a dip in  Echigo Yuzawa's Station onsen.   The sake-buro ( sake bath).   A 100% real onsen with 3 * 1.8 liters of sake dumped into it daily.   That first dip before lunch is amazing.   The hot onsen sake water soaks right into the skin and revitalizes you.   After finishing my bath and gorgeous lunch I headed out for a walk.

              Echigo is a simple town.   Like every small rural town shops open late and close early.

I was just walking around enjoying the snow.   I'm sure the folks in the midwest of the U.S.A. would love to curse at me for being so carefree.   Here in Japan, the Japanese have had their fair share of difficulties with the snow too, but for the most part have learned how to live with it, and endure the harsh and sometimes unforgiving winters.   Later on in this post, I will show you how snow and love are blended.

After my 20 minutes of exercise I headed back to the station to catch the train to a remote part of Uonuma valley, in a not so popular area called Koide.    Here is a post I did over the summer

On that local line the snow was really coming down.   It was great.   Looking out from the window and seeing miles and miles of snow from my train was amazing for me.

After reaching Koide I jumped on a bus to Oyuonsen.   If you do not know the significants of Niigata and Uonuma then just remember, these areas are famous for premium sake and rice.  

When I entered the hotel I was immediately greeted with a hot amazake , a low alcohol sweet sake.  It is not an authentically brewed sake, though.   It was strawberry flavored and very sweet and thick.   Afterwards, I was escorted up to my room.     Excellent room might I add.

On a side note:

Hannes Sneider introduced recreational skiing to the Japanese in the 1930s, and of course Japan imported it like it does everything else.   By the time the 1980s came along a " ski boom" occurred largely because of the economy.    Skiing became the most prevalent activity in winter for most Japanese.   The reason for adding this side note is because whenever you visit ski towns in Japan, most Japanese are not utilizing the facilities like the onsen as much.   It's because they're out skiing all day.    Many Japanese will opt out of hotel ski packages completely and just focus exclusively on skiing packages then return home the same day.   This leaves me and the old old timers to the hot springs.   We are happy about this because I do not see why recreational skiing is a part of the Japanese past time.   It has no consistency with Japanese cultural norms and pastimes.   Here's why:

snow and love

It's because when you are out there in the snow skiing and falling all over yourselves trying to be Euro-sensational I'm in your onsen(s) looking at you piss away the best Japanese experience ever.   And then you gotta wake up the next day with sore muscles and strained necks, or even worse injured, sleepy and tired and less able to work you are.  

And then there's the delicious  Niigata sake that you pass up because you want to drink beer because it's cheaper.   Are you kidding?   This was a very light and fragrant rice brew that I pounded in between onsen breaks and was reasonably priced.   Makihata is the name.   But of course, you have a million excuses why you rarely drink the rice brew, or about how bored you get with onsen and slow times.  Or, why it's so expensive and too far to travel two hours outside of Tokyo.    Need I question?

Here's a video I did of me entering this gorgeous bath on a cold winter day with snow scenery.   I thoroughly enjoyed the full use of the hot spring here.   The facilities were excellent.   And then dinner.

Iwana, Kinpira, Oroshi, Mouse for dessert, Crab, Shabu Shabu with ponzu, Nimono, Ebi Shinjo, Urui.   Didn't mark them on the photos.  I didn't have to time to photo edit.  

         River and bath, indoor hinoki was wonderful, especially with something cold to drink.

Miracle country.  

1 comment:

  1. Amazeke? I heard first time. Is it good as Sake drink?



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