The Knowledge born from the deep snow “The Daikon Tsugura”

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 denitely 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.

The locals of this area spent spring to autumn collecting food from the mountains and elds, and preserving what they didn’t immediately eat to store for the winter.  Their ancestors in this region came up with systems for preserving food that were ingenious and impressive.

One of those is the daikon tsugura – a cold storage system for the white radish. Mr. Masamori Takizawa, a born and bred resident of Ketto, continues to make these daikon tsuguras today. Nobody taught him how make them. He just has the memory of his parents making them and works from that.

Every year, when the rice harvest has finished around the end of October/beginning of November, he weaves a cylindrical container out of straw which is known as a “tsugura”. Just before the snow falls he fills it with things like radishes and carrots. Then throughout the winter, the inside of this tsugura is the perfect environment for keeping things fresh, and the vegetables stored within will be eaten all the way until May the following spring. It is always placed close to the house so it is easy to access with no need to go digging through deep snow. When spring arrives it becomes possible to collect mountain plants again, and the tsugura is left in the fields to become fertiliser. The daikon tsugura is a special kind of YUKIGUNI cold storage for the winter months.

When he was younger he often headed to the city to try to make a living. “The outside world is tough. My home deep in the mountains is the best place to be!” he laughingly admits. From his cheerful expression you sense that he loves living in the land of deep snows.

A daikon tsugura filled with home-grown white radishes. They are dug up from the fields just before the snow falls and placed in their winter home as they are, without being washed. They are used in meals until spring.

Masanori Takizawa 

In 1980 he started a soba restaurant called Kudari in his own home.It is an old farmhouse with an open hearth which serves local style soba noodles that use mountain burdock as the binding agent, along with home-grown vegetables, and wild plants.