If you are in the snowy country, there is a tourist spot in Minamiuonuma City, Niigata Prefecture, where you can see the scenery of “Gangi(covered walkway)”.
Shiozawa-juku, a post town on the Mikuni Kaido, once prospered as an important transportation hub connecting Edo (Tokyo) and Echigo (Niigata). Shiozawa-juku was originally an old-fashioned shopping street which used the gangi walkways unique to snow country. In order to convey the culture of the snow country and make the best use of this cityscape, a 350-meter section of gangi walkway was re-developed, and the exterior of the storefronts were unified. Let’s have a look by walking around the town.
Gangi: Eaves overhanging the entrance(front) of the shops lining the street. This sidewalk does not get wet even on rainy or snowy days.
Walking along the sidewalk, only the color of the walkway under the gangi is different. This is a sidewalk that anyone can pass, but actually it is private land maintained by each property owner. The residents have cooperated to provide the space and expand the sidewalk when the sidewalk was being maintained.
I saw a mantis object hanging on a pillar of the building while I was passing through. In fact, mantises have a close relation to the culture of the snow country. If the mantis lays its eggs in a high place, the winter will have a heavy snowfall. It is said that the residents have predicted the amount of snow by looking at the position of the insect’s eggs, because the snow was low if the eggs were laid in a low spot. As you can see, the of heavy snowfall is recorded on the pillar.
While walking along the Gangi street, we came upon the “Rice School”at the hub of the Shiozawa-juku walking path. There you can enjoy learning about the history of rice that Uonuma is proud of, and enjoy various goods related to rice. Here you can buy the “Motenashi-Tegata. This is a map with coupons issued by the NPO “Minami Uonuma Hospitality Town” and comes with 6 service vouchers that can be used at shops in Shiozawa-juku. If you show this ticket at a designated store, you will receive something special. I tried using it immediately.
I used a coupon at Rice School for a “two-handed scoop of Shiozawa Koshihikari rice from Uonuma.” Koshihikari from Shiozawa is a particularly high-grade of rice within the city of Uonuma. You can scoop up rice that costs more than 800 yen per kg once with both hands and take it back in the bag provided. The record for most rice taken in a two-handed scoop is 700g! This makes me want to try harder!
What came next was the Otsu confectionery shop, a well-established Japanese confectionery shop that has been in business for over 80 years. There are some 20 kinds of Japanese and Western sweets in the store.
The most popular item in the store is the “Cheese Manju” that has been made for over 30 years. The insides are a combination of three types of cream cheese, all wrapped in a galette dough. It tastes like a small cheesecake, and is very popular as a souvenir.
Here you can also exchange your coupon for another special product, “Maki no Manju.” The white bean paste is wrapped in a cake blended with miso. A simple yet sweet mix of the bean jam and the saltiness of miso makes for an addictive treat. This is a specialty of Shiozawa-juku.
If you use the “Motenashi Tegata” service coupons, you can also enjoy grabbing scoops of peppermint or rice crackers from the famous confectioners of Shiozawa. Prior reservations are required. Some of the “Motenashi Tegata” are on sale for 550 yen, including tax. Why not take a walk thinking about the old post town with this map in your hand?
Business hours: 10:00 to 16:00 (NPO Minami Uonuma Hospitality Town)
Address: 229-1, Shiozawa, Minamiuonuma City, Niigata Prefecture
Access: About 1 hour 50 minutes from Joetsu City