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August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Ojiya Katakai: The Road to Niigata

This is perhaps the most local spectacle of lights in Japan that most people will not go out of their way to travel to.   If you have time and the will to make it this deep in Niigata, it'll be well worth it! The blast you see over the shrine in this picture highlights only a small fraction of the power of the shell used.

I had two days left to use my Seishin Juhachi Kippu ( Seishin 18 Ticket) for the summer.   This is a special discount ticket which allows you unlimited train travel on all local JR lines in Japan for five days.    This time decided to head back up to Niigata to a city called Ojiya, a town famous for making and using the largest  fireworks shells in Japan and delicious southern grown koshihikari rice and bullfighting!   The bulls here are more well-mannered than the bulls in Pomplona, Spain.      

On the way there, I stopped over in Ikaho to stretch my legs in a nice onsen.    From Yokohama to Gunma is over two and a half hours, so I needed to get the blood flowing again.    After finishing up there, I headed to Shibukawa Station to continue my journey.  I stopped over in Echigo Yuzawa to check-in to my hotel and drop  off my bags.    Wet my whistle with some delicious sake then headed back to the station to catch the 5pm train bound for Ojiya Station - 59 minutes.

This sake is called Birokuchou - Jazakari by Niigata Meijo.   The reason I purchased it is because it is only brewed and sold in Niigata, and nowhere else.  They do not sell it outside of Niigata.    A truly wonderful sake with excellent flavor profiles.  The guinom i is called "shiho-hai" and it's a must-have sake ware if you want to use it for drinking chilled sake. 
Naturally of course the hot spring  had to be enjoyed as well, and so I entered it and went straight to heaven.   Hot with nice calcium aromatics in the nose.   

On the way up to Ojiya, I cracked open the train window to let in the fresh air.   It was so cool and fresh as the afternoon sun began to wane.    I was thoroughly sauced with some great sake and freshly made soba.   The trip to Ojiya was essential.   There are many great fireworks shows in Japan, each with their own unique style.    In some of my other posts on fireworks I mentioned about technical merits and sound composition being two of the most important steps in grading a good fireworks performance.   

I often tell people the best time to come up this way, or anywhere in Hokuriku or Tohoku, is either in June or late September when the rice paddies change colors.  Around July you can see water soaked rice fields, and in late September you can see golden rice field ready to be harvested.

I arrived just at sunset.  From Ojiya Station to Katakai is a 30 minute taxi ride.  I paid 3000 yen.  Buses are infrequent, as you would expect in the countryside.  
What makes Ojiya Katakanai Fireworks stand out is the size of the shells that are used; the biggest shells used in all of Japan and the loudest bangs that make the night sky shutter.   In addition, the drunken revelry is absolutely amazing.   You absolutely must experience hearing these shells go off in the night sky.  It's amazing.   

Video footage will be added shortly... The snippet with sake is a Monk's Sake, or holy sake you drink after offering up a prayer.

Fatty beef on a stick!  Lovely


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