Here in Matsudai it is one of the snowiest places in Japan. Just 40 years ago winter was like being on a secluded island because you were cut off from everything from when the first snow fell until it melted again. You needed to have enough food laid up to get you through that half of the year,” says Tatsuzou Murayama, boss of Tobu Taxi. As well as the taxi business, he also works as a guide taking people around the points of interest in the local countryside as part of a tourist taxi route.
On the border of Niigata and Nagano Prefectures is Ketto, part of Tsunan town. Snow clearing systems were not put in until 1978 which is when it became possible to get in and out by car over winter. You denitely had to have the knowledge and techniques to stay supplied with food over the winter months in this mountainous area, much more so than in the valley.
There is not just one soup, but they change with the seasons. The main ingredients may be the same but each area will have its own particular variations of stock and seasoning. Even more than that, each household will have its own take on the recipe. So with that in mind we have asked for the very best example from each family.
There used to be an unusual style of life where you could cover your expenses by selling the zenmai that you gathered in the mountains. Here we talk to a husband and wife who have done just that for over 40 years. 20 years on Ginzandaira in the Okutadami region, and then after that, more than twenty years in the mountains around their home town of Yunotani.
Any journey with gastronomy as its central theme is alway full of surprises. It is not just about the eating, but picking, learning, preparing, and getting to the very heart of the flavors. It is a journey to encounter the very land that produced a particular ingredient. When someone shares an interesting experience via the kitchen or the table, you take something away with you. As a result of that experience at that precise location the world that the traveller sees becomes deeper and richer. That process is gastronomy tourism.
When I go travelling I want to eat food that lets me feel the spirit of the area. This is because that even if the same ingredients are used, there are variations in flavor or the way of eating depending on each region, and even each household.