December 11, 2009

Niigata Day 1: New Rice and Old Birds

As I detailed in yesterday's video, I'm in Niigata as of this morning, blogging on assignment. I'll be making plenty of YouTube vids of the experience later, but for the time being, here's some pics.

Our first day was spent around Niigata city. They have a tourism site in English here.

Shortly after arriving via shinkansen, I met my chaperon (a guy who's a salary-man usually) as well as my fellow blogger in arms (a German woman who writes freelance travel articles).

After dropping our bags off in the hotel in Niigata city, we headed out to the Northern Cultural Museum [map, vids and pics][website]. It is actually what remains of the estate of the once powerful Ito family. At one point, the land they owned could have contained 300 Tokyo Domes, but eventually a land reform act forced them to downsize.

From Niigata Trip

Here's the view from the entrance to the grounds.



From Niigata Trip


While there, we ate at the in-house restaurant, Misogura. The meal included Niigata rice, which is famed for its taste. I have to agree that it is pretty good. It was also pretty fresh batch. Quite a change from my usual conbini rice.



From Niigata Trip

This is a huge rice cooker from way back in the prime of the estate, when the staff and family ate about 50 pounds of rice a day.


From Niigata Trip

This pic is from later, when we were in Shibata city [map] nearby. A number of stores were participating in a campaign where, for 500 yen, one can purchase a cup and get it filled five times with nihonshu, another local specialty (you just need to find stores with the pretty rabbit sitting on the moon). Speaking of which...


From Niigata Trip

This a pic from a distillery. Until the mid 40s, it was forbidden for women to go through this sort of gate (note the Shinto touches), due to the holy nature of the area. Even now, it is only the men that offer nihonshu to the gods.


From Niigata Trip

This is a pic of hyōko [map], a lake where birds come for the winter. The giant swans and smaller birds battle it out for food. I got some good video footage of the feeding frenzy to upload later.


From Niigata Trip

Finally, this is a small part of the spread from dinner at a fish restaurant [link]. I caught one of the fish myself later in the in-house pond.

Niigata is pretty cool so far. See you tomorrow!