Hi, everyone! Summer vacation has begun for most students, but we are quite busy getting ready for the Summer Term. We are going to introduce Niigata Prefecture this time.
“The train came out of the long border tunnel – and there was the snow country.” This famous quote is the first line of the Nobel Prize winning novel, Snow Country (Yukiguni) by Yasunari Kawabata. Even if you have never read the book, you may know what place that sentence describes. The novel is set in Niigata, in a town called Yuzawa. Niigata is known for the deep snows that blanket the land in winter, and Yuzawa is famous for its skiing resorts and hot springs, but this novel portrays the town and the snow as a symbol of the extraordinary.
Niigata faces the Sea of Japan, whose winds constantly, strongly blow onto the land. The prefecture receives some of the deepest snows in the world, in some cases 4 or 5 meters deep. On the other hand, the area also experiences the Foehn Wind effect in summer, which creates high temperatures. For example, the temperature one summer in Itoigawa City never fell below 30.8 degrees Celsius! The hot summers, combined with the large amount of snowmelt from the winter, has created rich, prospering rice fields. So, naturally, the rice from Niigata has become hugely popular throughout Japan. Several different strains are grown; the heaviest yield is that of “Koshihikari” rice, which covers 37% of Niigata’s crop acreage. This variety is descended from other popular varieties, including “Hitomebore,” “Hinohikari,” and “Akitakomachi.” These rank as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most popular, respectively. This genetic line continues; “Kinuhikari”, “Haenuki”, which are 5th and 7th, are the “grandfather” varieties, and “Nanatsuboshi”, “Masshigura”, and “Kirara 397”, 6th, 8th and 9th respectively, are the “great-grandfather” varieties. So, it is fair to say that most of the rice eaten by Japanese people is from the Koshihikari family in Niigata.
But it is not just the snow and the rice that makes Niigata so special. There are countless spectacles and attractions to enchant visitors. The August fireworks festival is one of the three largest in Japan. Each year, more than twenty thousand fireworks light up the night sky and scintillate in wondrous colors. On Sado Island, famous for its gold mine, you can pan for gold, and learn about its history in the process. And if all else fails, you know you can always enjoy the endless skiing in Yuzawa. And the best part is, it’s only 2-hours away from Tokyo via Shinkansen! Anyone interested?