*Review by Trial Traveler from Philippines
The Night Bus Ride to Niigata
After having lived in Japan for the past 20 years, I finally got the chance to experience riding on the night bus in Japan. I have been planning to try one for the longest time, since even from my place in Tsukuba, there are night buses going to Kyoto and Osaka but I have never acted on my plans.
There are expectations of course being aware of high Japanese standards, and seeing those attractive photos of the seats and interior of WILLER buses online when I was making reservations. I have not noticed these WILLER buses before – and I just felt so excited that when the travel company informed me two weeks before departure – I thought the stars were just aligned upon checking that my work schedule allowed it. This opportunity presented itself – and all I have to do is say “yes”.
I slept comfortably two nights in a row on the WILLER night bus to Niigata. Yes, I could not believe it myself – even though I was sitting next to the only one who was snoring (lightly, that is) – my husband!
About making original miso in Niigata
I did not realize that my husband and I were on our own when the WILLER night bus made its stop at Niigata Station at 7:45 A.M. right on the dot. I was looking around for clues – for a guide who would lead us to Minemura Shoten (I forgot to bring a map – no, I did not even check where the place is and how to get there from the station – gasp!). Due to my overall excitement about this whole learning experience, I totally forgot to ask the tour organizer for more details. To cut the story short, my husband and I had a good walking exercise that morning getting to the place, and I had lots of practice with my Nihongo asking for directions (I’m sure life would be easier using smartphone apps – but my husband and I are not the types). Apparently, Minemura Shoten is well-known and it did not take long for us to find the place. My husband and I found ourselves in the company of a solo adventurer from the UK. Together, we learned the miso-making process, the traditional Japanese way.
My husband reminded me that we also have miso in the Philippines, yellow miso, which we would buy in the fresh market to cook with fish. From the web, I got the information that miso was brought to the Philippines by Christian Japanese refugees during the Edo period (1603-1868). The Filipino locals then learned to use miso to add to our “sinigang” dish, a sour tamarind soup usually using fish as meat.
I learned so many new things about making miso using our own hands during our Niigata adventure. Even though the four of us (including the very kind and patient instructor) had exactly the same ingredients, our miso will taste differently from each other. I could test this – by comparing my miso and my husband’s miso. The taste and color also change with time. The longer the fermentation period, the darker the color of the miso becomes.
I think it is very timely for us to appreciate how miso is made, especially during winter time when a hot bowl of healthy miso soup could warm our minds and our bodies deep inside.
Thank you to the staff of Minemura Shoten and the Willer night bus that enabled us to reach the magical place of Niigata – which is on the other side of where welive. It was a great feeling indeed to see the Sea of Japan.