A series of magazine-based sake tours around the prefecture.
This article introduces the second part of a series of 12 breweries in four cities and two towns in the Chuetsu area, seven of which are worth visiting by car.
This area offers a variety of springtime delights unique to mountainous areas, such as katakuris and wild vegetables, along with the thawing of the snow.
Drive through the snowy landscape, looking for the footsteps of spring.
Uonuma area, to the breweries in the satoyama.
Approximately 5 minutes from the Koide IC on the Kanetsu Expressway. The Midorikawa Brewery, located along the Uono River, was founded in 1884 (Meiji 17) and its representative brand is Midorikawa.
Brewery tours are not accepted, but sales are allowed.
The scenery is beautiful, with sake breweries built in the midst of a silver world along the Uono River.
In the morning, the sight of steam rising from the chimneys as the rice steams is a particularly good one.
As well as standard sake, check out limited editions such as Kasumi Shibori, which is released once a year in March.
Uonuma's local sake Fujiya, in front of Koide Station, is a special distributor of Midorikawa Sake Brewery. It has a good selection of local sake from the Uonuma region.
Hakkai Brewery, located in the neighbouring city of Minamiuonuma, was founded in 1922 and its representative brand is Hakkaiyama.
Uonuma no Sato, about 15 minutes from the Yamato Smart IC on the Kanetsu Expressway, is home to the Daini Kowagura, a collection of snow rooms, restaurants and shops selling goods.
Tours of the snow chamber can also be accepted on the day of the tour (limited numbers).
Non-drivers can enjoy free tastings at the end of the tour to see the different flavours.
Drivers can choose evening drinks and snacks from the museum's shop.
The Sarukurayama Brewery of 'Rydeen Beer' is located on the hill, where visitors can enjoy food and drink while looking at the brewing tanks through the glass.
Rare sake rice 'Ipponjime' is grown from seed.
Another brand name of the brewery, Makihata, is derived from Mount Makiki, one of Japan's 100 most famous mountains, which is also the source of the brewery's brewing water. At the foot of the mountain, in the village of Shimizu, there is a mountain inn, Unten, where you can taste local delicacies such as wild vegetables in spring and mushrooms in autumn. Why not stay and enjoy it this spring?
Takachiyo Sake Brewery does not offer tours or sales, but it is recommended to enjoy the scenery with the brewery from the train window and try your hand at making soba (buckwheat noodles) or anbo (bean paste) at Ueda no Sato, which is a 5-minute drive from the brewery.
To a sake brewery in Echigo-Tsumari, a village of art.
Tokamachi City and Tsunan Town, known as Echigo-Tsumari and the setting for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, each have two sake breweries.
Uonuma Sake Brewery in Tokamachi City was founded in 1876 and its representative brand is Tenjinbayashi. Sake brewery tours are available, so ask before you go.
Another Tokamachi sake brewery, Matsunoi Sake Brewery, was established in 1894 (27th year of Meiji) and its representative brand is Matsunoi. Sake brewery tours are not available, but sales are permitted.
Both Matsunoi and Tenjinbayashi have art bottles, created as a result of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Festival, which are proving very popular.
Sold at the Roadside Station Crossten shop, the Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art MonET and the Matsudai Nohbutai Field Museum.
'Tenjinbayashi' art bottle.
'Matsunoi' art bottle.
Tokamachi is a mecca for hegisoba. The city is dotted with excellent noodle shops, so enjoy it at the one of your choice.
Furthermore, Tokamachi is also famous for its beautiful terraced rice field scenery.
The terraced rice fields of Hoshitoge, with some 200 paddy fields of various sizes, are a popular photo spot.
Tsunan town, located next to Tokamachi and on the border with Nagano Prefecture, is a region of heavy snowfall, with more than 4 m of snow recorded this year. Two sake breweries brew locally produced sake using limpid melted snow as brewing water.
The Naeba Sake Brewery was founded in 1907 and its representative brand is Naebayama. Currently, the brewery does not offer tours of the brewery, but visitors can purchase and sample (for a fee) at the directly-operated shop.
At the Naeba Brewery, the brewery is attracting attention for its Sake no Mori, created under the supervision of the owner of the Sake no Yado Tamakiya in Matsunoyama Onsen, the winner of the 2019 Ryokan Koshien.
Sake pairing plans are also available at Sake-no-Yado Tamakiya.
Tsunan Brewery, another sake brewery in Tsunan town, was founded in 1996 (Heisei 8) and its representative brand is 'Fog Tower'.
Tours of the brewery are available (reservations are required at least one day in advance), but they may be suspended, so it's best to make an enquiry before going.
The new 'Tsunan' series has been released to express the significance of brewing sake in the unexplored region of Tsunan through its products.
From 29 January to 13 March, Echigo-Tsumari will host the Echigo-Tsumari 2022 Winter SNOWART, a diverse programme of events.
The exhibition 'Tower of the Hand Holding' is currently being held at the Matsudai 'Nohbutai'.
Snow play expo. Various weekend programmes are organised, including sledging and viewing of snow artworks.
A work from the Hokuetsu Snow Album Adventure at the Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art MonET. 'Flower Garden in the Sky' by light artist Masata Takahashi.Photo (all three) Nakamura Osamu
Passports are also available, so do your research before you go out.
The footsteps of spring are faintly audible, but you can't let your guard down just yet in winter in Niigata.
Drive safely and enjoy the drive to find spring in the mountains. The snowy scenery of sake breweries, which can only be seen during this season, is also a nice sight. Snowy landscapes suit sake breweries well.