Located in the mountains of southern Niigata Prefecture, the small city of Myoko is attracting ever bigger recognition. Home to delightful ski slopes, secluded hot spring resorts and adrenaline-pumping activities, it’s a great travel destination only two hours from Tokyo.
For those who can’t go travel at the moment, TW organized a series of events and interactive workshops where our readers got to learn about Myoko. On October 2 and 3 in Creative Space 8/ in Shibuya Hikarie, visitors had the chance to experience the best of Myoko. Just enough so that their travel appetites started working.
Here is what we all learned about Myoko from the TW x Myoko event.
1. Myoko is an excellent winter destination
Beautiful throughout the year, Miyoko is a great destination whenever you go. Mount Myoko, an active volcano and one of Japan’s top 100 famous mountains, is great for hiking in summer. The whole area is gorgeous when the leaves turn red in fall and when everything blooms in spring. Other popular spots are Imori Pond and Naena Falls.
Many visitors tend to prefer winter in Myoko, because this area is blessed with dramatic mountains and abundant snowfall. There are numerous skiing and snowboarding destinations in Myoko. The snow is powdery, the air is crisp and the natural hot springs in the area are plentiful.
2. Myoko loves chili peppers
Myoko produces kanzuri, a traditional, fermented seasoning passed down through the generations for over 400 years. Variations differ, but the base is fermented chili peppers preserved in salt and snow. Traditionally, the peppers are placed outside on the snow in winter, because it’s said that removes their bitterness. The total fermentation process can take from three to six years. The final product is usually made of a mix of yuzu, chili and koji.
At the Myoko and TW event, we had the chance to taste the kanzuri condiment and bring a little jar home. Moreover, participants made talismans from dried kanzuri chili peppers, which are believed to ward off evil spirits.
3. Myoko uses snow to make everything better
It’s not just chili peppers that are made better by snow in Myoko. Locally-made denim is also strengthened in a trial by ice and snow. Maruni Jeans is a denim company that has been based in Myoko since 1950. It’s legendary, worldwide, when it comes to high-quality jeans. Part of its production process involves washing jeans in ice-cold water and dipping them in snow. It makes the fabric both durable and pleasant. Due to this process, a pair of Maruni Jeans can last you decades.
At the event, participants could touch the jeans and see firsthand the difference between quality clothes and fast fashion items.
4. Myoko Makes Great Fermented Drinks
Myoko is also renowned for quality rice, which also means good sake. This is why you’ll find excellent sake breweries in Myoko like Ayumasamune Shuzo, Chiyonohikari Shuzo and Kiminoi Shuzo. Participants in the event tasted Myoko amazake, the non-alcoholic rice drink that’s a great alternative to alcoholic sake.
Myoko’s fermentation culture doesn’t end there. It also produces distinctive drinks like hozuki (Chinese Lantern flower) cider and a fermented pomegranate drink. Finally, there’s Myoko’s famous herbal liquor “Yuaraze.” It’s made by fermenting and maturing 63 kinds of carefully selected raw materials for more than a year.
5. Myoko Has A Different Way of Eating Buckwheat
Soba is usually in noodle form, whether cold or hot. A staple Japanese food, these buckwheat noodles even predate ramen and udon noodles. Soba can be found all over Japan now, but in some places like Myoko there is one more method of eating buckwheat. Named sobagaki, the dish is a small ball of boiled buckwheat flour topped with soy sauce.
At the event, we had the chance to taste this delightful dish and even combine it with the kanzuri condiment for those who wanted a spicy kick. Either way, it’s a dish that will warm you up in the cold Niigata winter.
Participants at the event already started making plans to go see autumn foliage or go skiing in Myoko. In the meantime, its kanzuri sauce and kanzuri charm will warm them up and keep them company. If you want to plan your own trip to Myoko, check out the official tourism website.
Here are some more photos from the TW x Myoko event in Shibuya Hikarie.