Journey to Niigata
At 00:00, I took the overnight Relax bus to Niigata from Tokyo station. For a non-Japanese speaker, the bus station have electronic boards with clearly indicated destinations. The seats were comfortable on the Willer Express relax bus and the hoods are an added bonus for privacy.
The bus arrived on 07:45 at Niigata station, where there was an opportunity to freshen up and have breakfast in the station.
I made my way to the miso factory. It was a little hard to get the right direction from the station but it was only a 15 minute walk.
Once at the factory, my group was led inside their shop. We were given a tour of the factory in Japanese. Fortunately another visitor was able to give some short translations and I was able to understand the general process of miso making. This place produces 8,000 tons of miso a year. It would take a Japanese family of four about 26 years to consume one barrel of their miso and these were exceptionally large barrels.
After being shown around the factory, we were led to a space where we were settled into a large plastic sheet, placed on the floor.
We were given pre measured ingredients; soy paste, koji, water and kobo. Step by step, we were shown how to mix and knead our miso paste. Then we were guided into packing our miso tightly into our buckets for fermentation. This was interesting and whilst doing this, our guide also explained the reasoning for this and facts about the different types of miso.
The end result is 4kg of miso waiting to be fermented. Our guide had our individual buckets labelled and arranged to have delivered to our homes once the miso was ready.
Back in the shop, we were given a tasting of miso and different pickles. They were all very delicious. I bought some small souvenirs of pickles and miso.
After this course, I had lunch before heading down the road to visit the Imayotsukasa sake brewery. It’s hard to miss out on one of the most famous produce in this prefecture. Tours are recommended to be booked in advance and it’s free admissions. The tour was friendly and personal. The tasting showcased a wide selection of their award winning sake.
After this I ventured around Niigata to enjoy the rest of the place, including Pia Bandai fish market and also an onsen. For dinner, I indulged in a delicious meal of soba noodles.
After dinner, it was time to head home. The waiting room in Niigata station has free wi-fi. (Passwords can be acquired from the Tourist information centre outside the station east exit) The bus was busier this time but the hoods on the Relax bus provided privacy between the passenger next to me and myself.
Review by Trial Traveler from Hong Kong