In APRIL, Go to a Hanami Party in NIIGATA
On about the 2nd weekend in Niigata, you can enjoy the beauty of Niigata's blooming
cherry trees (Sakuraki). You can also enjoy
eating local food such as popoyagi (only in Niigata). The best place to buy this is at Hakusan Shrine (Hakusan Jinja). There are plenty of Japanese Sakura trees in full bloom at this time. Walk along the Shinano
River to see the crowds of people enjoying the weekend, the beautiful tulips, and the cheery blossoms.
Niigata Fact: Niigita's official flower is the Tulip.
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Niigata Bijin (Beautiful women)
Niigata and Akita are famous for beautiful women. In Japan, one of the primary factors of beauty is fair clear skin (think Snow White) which makes Niigata bijin so beautiful. Among other perceived beauty indexes are big eyes, silky hair, and a slim body.
This is what it comes down to -
a bugs life doesn't matter much.
One kind of food I've never had the stomach for is eating Inago (locust). They are fried up in soy sauce and sugar and according to those that go for it, they taste like shrimp.
No thanks. I'm on a hunger strike.
- Food and Dining
When a New Store Opens
This is what people in Niigata do... even though it's JUST a grocery store. Actually, what was really going on is that the store was remodeled. I admit that it looks better than it used to look but, it's just a grocery store! In Japan, people tend to call these grocery stores 'Supas'. In fact, usually there's really nothing super about them. It would be better if they just settled for 'market'. I just don't see a market calling itself 'supa' when it really doesn't have a large selection of anything in particular.
We wouldn't go around calling superman 'supa' if he couldn't fly!
To be fair, some 'supas' are a little more deserving of the title. (There are some good sized 'supas' located in Dekki 401, Josco in Aoyama, and in the basement of Daie Department store in Bandai.)
For the New Year: Attach a prayer to a tree
The custom for those who participate in this
Shinto custom is to buy a special prayer for good luck, add the names of all those concerned and attach it to one of the designated trees at the shrine.
(This is one of the ways in which the temples rake it in).
Hakusan Shrine on New Years
This is the place to go for reverence and prayer. On this day and at this place, Niigata people cherish the chance to move in mass upon Hakusan Shrine. Surrounded by people everywhere you look with equally the same intentions, Japan came up with a very economical way to deal with this situation. Several years ago Japan was the first country to invent the Express Prayer.
It goes something like this,... first, throw your money into one of the big boxes (one with all the other millions of yen coins and bills pilling into them) then quickly step as close as you can and say something like `Kami sama (God) thank you and please give me good luck this year.'
As the rules go, there are about 4 prayers from which you can choose from:
PrayerChoice #1 `Let me pass the entrance exams`
PrayerChoice #2 `Win me the Lottery`
PrayerChoice #3 `May my family be healthy`
PrayerChoice #4 `Give me a husband` (some people choose a wife)`
If your prayer actually falls into another area, then it`s best to simply choose PrayerChoice#1 as other people are waiting behind you. This way at least, your prayer may go to someone else who really needs it whom probably forgot to pray in the first place. PrayerChoice #1 has been the top prayer for 5 consecutive years now.
This is also the day for heaping a dead squid on the gigantic bonfire. As this fire reaches several meters into the sky it is best not to walk through it. This is great fun for the kids and its also a good place to pick up some popcorn for snack time later.
- Arts and Culture
Niigata is known for its rice , Koshihikari in Japanese. It has a reputation for being some of the best rice in Japan! As you can see from the picture (taken from a train not far from Niigata Station), much of Niigata is covered in rice fields.
Where there is good rice there is bound to be good sake ! Sake, rice wine, is probably the national drink of Japan so the Japanese appreciate a good quality sake.
Sasadango is a sweet snack made from glutinous white rice filled with sweet bean paste. I normally don't like bean paste but this is pretty good stuff! They wrap up the whole thing in bamboo leaves.
Of course we can't forget seafood ! Niigata has a wide-range of fresh seafood year round that can be tried in most restaurants or you can buy it fresh and cook it yourself. The best places to get fish are Honcho and Hakusan markets.
Popoyaki is a Niigata specialty made from simply flour, brown sugar, & water.
However, it's quite popular whenever there's a festival at Hakusan Shrine.
Go to Hakusan Shrine during one of these festivals for a taste of Popoyaki.
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- Food and Dining
Niigata is one of the best places in the world to eat sashimi. It's so fresh and delicious. For those of you who've never tried raw fish before you really don't know what you're missing. Raw fish often tastes better than cooked fish. When eating sashimi be sure to dip it in a little soy sauce with some wasabi (green radish) mixed in. Don't use too much as it is rather strong. Wasabi is something like horse radish.
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
Beware of Oni (Japanese Ogre)
During Setsubun (in February), Japanese people celebrate clearing ONI from their homes. People chant in Japanese, "Oni wa soto. Fukuwa uchi." (Oni out. Good Luck in.) Part of the custom involves throwing dried
soybeans at an Oni in the house. Usually,
the father dresses up as the Oni.
The Oni has been a large part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years and many folktails include stories about Oni.
One of the most famous is the story of Momotarou (Peach boy). Momotarou was born in a giant peach. An elderly woman found his giant peach floating down a river. After pulling the peach from the river she showed her discover to her husband. Suddenly the peach popped open and there was Momotarou.
When Momotarou grew up to be a young man he left his 'parents' and went off to find treasure. On his way, he befreinded a monkey, a dog, and a bird. He and his companions went to Oni Island. There they slew some of the ogres and stole their fortunes. They then returned home with the goods.
If you get a chance, you can participate in Sestubun at a Buddhist temple. There you can get a chance to dress up as an Oni yourself and throw candy and gifts to children.
It's fun. I've done it twice. The Oni for this particular ceremony don't look scary.
I dressed as a Red Ogre (Aka-Oni) for Halloween 2001. I wanted to be the scariest looking Oni people had ever seen. What do you think?
The telephone code for Japan is: 81
The telephone code for Niigata is: 025
When dialing from overseas dial +81-25 for any number in Niigata.
The kid shishimai dancer...
The kid shishimai dancer scares the baby in the house. Shishimai brings happiness to home.
In Sado, Niigata
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