Enjoy tasting and comparing various kinds of rice!
Speaking of Niigata, the first thing coming into my mind is “Koshihikari.” I visited “Bokushi-dori” Street in Shiozawa-juku of the Mikuni-kaido Road in Minamiuonuma City.
This area is a producer of traditional craft fabrics “Echigo-jofu” and “Shiozawa Tsumugi,” which are known for being on the lists of National Important Intangible Cultural Properties and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages. Shiozawa-juku once prospered as a post station on the Mikuni-kaido Road connecting the Kanto and Echigo regions. Recently, the old streetscape has been recreated as part of the efforts for regional revitalization. With traditional buildings along the street, you can feel a nostalgic atmosphere.
“Bokushi-dori” Street is home to “Okome no Gakko (Rice School),” a museum about rice. At this museum, you can learn about rice from the exhibition of materials as well as experience the food culture based on rice through various activities, including tasting various kinds of rice. As a touch panel is available in foreign languages, you can learn about how Koshihikari is grown and carefully selected, without knowledge of Japanese!
At the souvenir space, you can find various goods and items under the theme of rice, such as rice ball-shaped accessories and handbags made from rice sacks. They are very nice and unique so you might feel you want to get them all!
First, you can learn about rice and how rice is carefully selected. Staff members offer easy-to-understand explanations in Japanese. You can learn about the whole process from selecting rice and quality checking to being sold at stores. With the high-speed processing of a color selector and the power of pressurized air, you can see how high-quality rice grains are selected. In a tasting test, the taste of rice is measured, with a higher score indicating delicious rice.
I tried to carry rice in the same way as people used to do when tools and machines were unavailable. There is a panel of a woman carrying five sacks of rice (about 300 kg)! Compared to that, one bag (about 60 kg) didn’t look very hard to carry, but it was too heavy for me to lift even a bit. The women of olden days were great!
After I and others had finished doing various activities, small rice cooking pots with different kinds of rice had just finished cooking! I tasted four kinds of Koshihikari brands: “Kojumai,” “Tenjinmai,” “Shin-nosuke,” and “Sekike no Kodawarimai.” At the moment I opened the lid, the aroma of the freshly-cooked rice stimulated my appetite. I tasted the four kinds of rice while looking at the description of them, without knowing which one was which. All four kinds were very delicious. It was very difficult to identify the kinds, so I could get only one correct answer. I am very far from a master of Koshihikari.
On this visit, I learned lots about rice, especially how to grow and select Koshihikari. And I could try rare kinds of rice! Koshihikari was so delicious that I ate a lot of plain rice just by itself.
At this museum, you can enjoy not only Koshihikari rice but also “hegi-soba,” one of Niigata’s specialty dishes. “Hegi” is a container in which the soba noodles are served. The noodles are made with fu-nori (a type of seaweed), so they have a unique texture with enhanced smoothness and firmness. They are delicious especially with tempura made with local vegetables.
Address: 229-1 Shiozawa, Minamiuonuma City, Niigata Prefecture
Open 365 days
Access: Tokyo Sta. à Echigoyuzawa Sta. by JR Shinkansen à Shiozawa Sta. by Joetsu Line à 7 min on foot