Sponsored by UONUMA City Tourist Association
Uonuma is a small city in Niigata prefecture. The area is known for the heavy snowfall during winter. This area is excellent for skiing and snowboarding. The ski-resort Suhara is a 5-minute walk from Urashin Minshuku and several courses are available for children and adults.
Uonuma is famous for the artwork created by Uncho Ishikawa at Eirinji Temple and Saifukuji Temple. But there are plenty of other activities to spend time doing in Uonuma. The snowshoe-trekking is amazing with beautiful views over the snowy mountains, and the Meguro Residence and the local sake brewery are both worth a visit as well. For a quick introduction of this unique town, please check out this video!
Staying at Urashin Minshuku
Staying at a traditional minshuku in Japan mid-winter is a very unique, and unforgettable experience. After being out in the cold for an entire day, whether you were skiing or sightseeing, it feels great to be welcomed into the warmth.
The Japanese people are known for their hospitality, and I have never been treated as well as I was at Urashin Minshuku. The staff offered to lend me boots for the snow and a Waza-Zaiku trial class was arranged for me after dinner. Dinner was served in a large dining room with tatami floors and low Japanese tables. Trays were beautifully laid out on the tables with freshly cooked food for dinner and, in the morning, breakfast.
The room at Urashin was beautiful. It was pre-heated with a warm futon for sleeping and large windows that looked out over the snowy landscape. My room also had a TV and low Japanese styled table.
Urashin Minshuku even had a large bath tub for women, and a separate one for men. At the end of a long day, it was so nice to eat a fresh dinner and take a hot bath.
Uonuma is famous for the rice brand Koshihikari, which is famous in Japan as a high-quality premium brand of rice. I was served delicious, locally grown rice with dinner as well as breakfast. For dinner, I was served ‘shabu shabu’. This is a hot pot made with vegetables and thinly sliced meat. The food is then dipped in different sauces before eaten. The main dish was served with several side-dishes and a beautiful dessert consisting of chocolate cake with fresh strawberries.
Breakfast was served in Japanese-style with rice, salmon and egg together with several side dishes such as miso soup and natto. Natto is made from fermented soy beans and has a very particular smell. The Japanese people love natto, but it is definitely a very acquired taste.
Waza-Zaiku – The art of straw plaiting
At Urashin, you have the chance to do a ‘taiken’, a trial lesson in Waza-Zaiku, a kind of straw plaiting. In the old days, the rice crops would be dried, and the straw would be used for making clothes and accessories.
The old women and men would stay indoors during the coldest days of the winter and use their days to make items out of straw. Sandals, winter boots and snowshoes were typically made. Coats, hats and baskets were also made and used in the everyday life.
I had the chance to try the straw plaiting during my stay at Urashin. The straw is surprisingly strong and we were using our trivet on a daily basis at home. With some help, I managed to make a Japanese version of a trivet. In the past, these were used to put nabe pots on. Nabe is a Japanese hotpot often eaten in winter. I wish I had the chance to learn more about this fascinating handicraft!
What to do in Uonuma
The Suhara ski-resort is a 5-minute walk from Urashin Minshuku. Suhara has some great ski slopes due to the high-quality snow in the area. You can both snowboard and ski here.
Snowshoe-trekking is also an excellent option in Uonuma. The views over the snowy mountains are breathtaking. An English-speaking guide is available for booking at Urashin Minshuku. But make sure to book in advance!
The Meguro Residence, a traditional, wealthy farmer’s house can be found next to Urashin. Entrance is 300 yen and you can enter both the residence and the folk cultural museum. The Meguro Residence has some very interesting features, such as a front roof window that actually functions as a chimney when wood is burned inside the house.
There is also a local sake brewery that you absolutely cannot miss. It is only a 10-minute walk from Urashin Minshuku and you can sample free sake! You can also buy some high-quality Japanese sake to bring home with you as a souvenir.
One night stay at Urashin Minshuku including breakfast and dinner: 7,200 yen.
Waza-Zaiku trial: 1,000 yen
How to get there:
Take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Urasa station. Change to the JR line and get off at Koide Station. Then take the Tadami line to Echigo-Suhara station. Urashin Minshuku is a 5-minute walk from the station.
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