NIIGATA, THE RICE CAPITAL OF JAPAN
Bountiful Harvest Essential to the Japanese Diet
(December 26, 2007)
Niigata Prefecture boasts astounding natural beauty. Looking out over the Sea of Japan to the West and surrounded by majestic mountains on its other three sides, lush rice fields fan out over the region's serene landscape. Niigata is known throughout Japan as the home of Koshihikari rice, sworn by many to be the best in Japan. The region is also known for its severe winters and heavy snowfall. The Echigo Plain, sometimes referred to as Japan's rice belt, stretches far and wide around the city of Niigata, home to around 810,000 people. Niigata's abundant harvest of high-grade rice yields some of the most sought-after sakes and rice crackers in Japan.
Rice at the Heart of Local Cuisine
Sasazushi (bamboo leaf sushi) is a delicacy made with rice and enjoyed especially in Western Niigata and the Joetsu region. Sasazushi recipes vary from family to family, but generally rice seasoned with vinegar is molded into small oval shapes and placed on bamboo leaves. Such toppings as mountain vegetables and mushrooms marinated in soy sauce and sugar and omelet are laid out on top of the rice, producing a vivid, colorful feast. The toppings take a lot of time and effort to prepare, but it is worth it to see the joy that sasazushi brings to people's faces, particularly at festivals and special occasions.
Fine Rice and Pristine Water Yield Exquisite Sakes
There are many wonderful varieties of Japanese sake such as junmai-shu, made from only water and rice, and namazake, which has a clean flavor and is not heated during the brewing process. Sake can be enjoyed chilled or warm, and a fine variety thoughtfully selected is sure to complement the best of either Japanese or Western cuisines.
Crackers from Japan' Rice Belt
The persimmon is a popular fruit in Japan, and Niigata's best-known rice cracker snack is called Kaki-no-tane, literally "persimmon seeds." Shaped like the seeds of the popular fruit, Kaki-no-tane are made by coating small arare crackers with a slightly spicy sauce, making for a fabulous snack that goes well with such drinks as beer and sake. In addition to the traditional Kaki-no-tane snack with the spicy coating, other popular variations include one that adds an additional coating of chocolate, creating an incongruent yet surprisingly tasty sweet and spicy blend.
Copyright (C)2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.