THE CITY OF MINAMIUONUMA: DAY TWO

Two-Day Minamiuonuma City — Snow Country Experience w/Muica Onsen Snow Resort

DAY TWO (read about DAY ONE)

Wake up for a delicious traditional Japanese breakfast located in Muica’s lobby restaurant. Here, enjoy warm bread, homemade salmon soup, rice, pickled veggies, fresh fruit, a variety of fresh fish including salmon and trout, and much more! Afterwards, dip into the onsen one last time before checking out and heading out for the day’s adventures.

Start your day off by visiting Nakataya Textile Co. to experience Echigo-jofu kimono snow bleaching first-hand. The art of snow bleaching is unique to the city of Minamiuonuma and is a seasonal sign for locals that spring is coming. It is a special tradition, only being performed once a year for a few consecutive days in March. Before the final stage of snow bleaching, there are some 70 processes including thread being spun and twisted in the snow and the cloth woven in the snow. It takes over a year to turn Echigo-jofu material into workable textile. Once the material is favorable, snow bleaching is performed, with material spread out across the snow. When ultraviolet rays hit the surface of the snow, it has the effect of bleaching the plant fiber colors. This process turns yellow tinged material into a fresh snow colored white and stained printed material colors become more vibrant.

Kimono Bleaching
Experience a kimono snow bleaching demonstration at Nakataya Textile Co. Ltd. by owner Kiyoshi Nakajima.

Since 1950, Echigo-jofu, the plant fiber based material utilized to create these gorgeous kimono’s, has been designated as National Important Intangible Property and in 2009, Echigo-jofu was listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Echigo-jofu is the highest quality hemp cloth for summer and is known for absorbing and releasing temperature and sweat quickly, keeping individuals cool throughout summer. The material of Echigo-jofu, choma or ramie fiber is weakened by dry conditions, therefore it must be produced in a humid climate. For this reason, Minamiuonuma city is the ideal place for producing kimonos with this delicate material because it is always humid due to heavy snow in winter. Local hemp of this area made in Nara Era is still preserved in the Reservoir, Shosoin, Nara.

After learning all about snow bleaching and taking in stunning views of the mountains, satisfy your mid-day hunger with tasty soba at a local favorite, Annon-Tei. In Japan, soba refers to thin noodles made from buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are typically either chilled with a savory dipping sauce or in a delicious hot broth. At Annon-Tei, the soba is served with a variety of tempura foods including shrimp, mushroom, carrot and sweet potato. Additionally, this popular restaurant has over 20 types of locally brewed sake for you to try.

Snowshoeing
Enjoy snowshoeing up a trail through the woods in Uonuma-No-Sato.

Once you have nourished and energized your body, head on over to Uonuma-No-Sato for snowshoeing, or hiking in the snow, with a guide. Trek through the depths of the woods where you will discover unique animals and plants. The path is rigorous but also refreshing. It’s a great way to reconnect with nature and get away from electronics as well as the hustle and bustle of life. While in the woods, find the perfect mountainside to hike. With the help of the guide, venture up onto a steep trail. Be prepared to potentially slip or fall while snowshoeing up the mountain. If you happen to slip, don’t panic, just slowly work your way back into a standing position or ask for assistance from your guide. At the top of the mountain, soak up breathtaking views while enjoying tea or coffee and locally made frosted sponge cake.

 

Cake baking
Local baker’s make a fresh batch of sponge cake daily, slicing the cake and adding a thin layer of sweet frosting.

After changing out of your snowshoeing gear, walk over to Hakkaisan Yukimuro for a tour of this snow cellar and sake brewery. Be sure to wear a warm jacket, as the cellar is only 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Yukimuro, translated as “natural refrigerator,” has been utilized in Minamiuonuma snow country for over 2,500 years. During winter, heavy snow fall is transferred in to a cellar with a roof made of either cogon grass or straw, leaving an enormous mound of snow approximately 20 feet tall. This form of refrigeration is used to preserve vegetables and fruits in addition to maturing sake.

Once you have toured the snow cellar, make your way to the tasting room where there are over a hundred barrels of sake. Here, you may sample over 30 locally brewed Japanese sake’s. Afterwards, visit the gift shop where you can purchase your favorite sake, locally made sticky rice, individually packaged local fish or handmade specialty cake.

Sake brewery
While at Hakkaisan Yukimuro, taste over 30 sake’s in their sake cellar.

Before heading home via Shinkansen, stop by Ponshu-Kan, a vending machine sake outlet at Echigo-Yuzawa train station. Here, pay 500 yen and receive five gold coins and a sake cup which allows you to try up to five different local sake’s.  Simply choose from over 50 Japanese sake’s, insert your gold coin, push the yellow knob and sake is poured directly into your drinking cup. If you would like to sample more than five sake’s, just purchase additional gold coins as you go.

Sake vending machine
Choose from over 50 different sake’s dispensed from a vending machine at Ponshu-Kan in Echigo-jofu train station.

You may also taste different curry and miso salts to purchase and take back home. These salts are convenient for creating a variety of dishes and are easy to use. Just mix the salt with water and voila, you have a tasty base for curry or miso soup. While at Echigo-Yuzawa station, you can also discover a multitude of delicious restaurants and food vendors, as well as gifts to take home for friends and family.

Sauces
After sampling multiple sake’s, try out a variety of curry and miso salts at Ponshu-Kan.

Minamiuonuma city has an abundance of incredible leisure and action-packed activities for everyone. It is unique in so many ways and is worth the drive winter, spring, summer or fall! Contact Yujo at 225-7713 for assistance with booking a stay at Muica Onsen Hotel, renting snow gear in advance, travel tips and more.