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  • (gentle music)

  • - We've just arrived in Tokamachi in Niigata prefecture.

  • And it's a pretty long trip from Fukuoka

  • but also a pretty long trip from Niigata city

  • but it was quite a beautiful train ride

  • passing all the scenery and seeing the snow pile up

  • as we headed closer into the interior of the prefecture.

  • I can't wait to get out there and explore,

  • let's go!

  • (laughs)

  • Look at this!

  • This is insane to me.

  • Look at this.

  • To walk down a street,

  • the snow has piled up taller than me.

  • One of the interesting things about Tokamachi

  • is that in spite of its extremely rural placement in Japan,

  • it seems to have a lot of modern development

  • and artistic spirit.

  • So we've just arrived at Mori No Gakkou Kyororo

  • in the middle of the mountains covered in snow.

  • You can't really see it.

  • There's like the tip,

  • right up there.

  • Apparently that's an observatory.

  • And from up there we should be getting some killer views.

  • Mori No Gakkou Kyororo is a natural science museum

  • located in the middle of a nature-rich mountain side area

  • geared towards teaching young children

  • about the local ecosystem

  • and the life that's supported by it.

  • It opened in the public in 2003

  • during the local Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial

  • held at the same time.

  • Along with science displays,

  • you can also find works of art

  • stationed inside and outside the building.

  • So inside the museum

  • there is a tower that gives you a view of the entire area

  • but this tower is also an art installation

  • and it's dark.

  • There's a little bit of light.

  • You have to take your time

  • and be very careful when going up the stairs.

  • It's really cool.

  • - This tower has been designed

  • to be a total sensory experience

  • with 300 steps to the top of the tower.

  • You can only place your hand

  • on the guard rail and carefully make your way to the top.

  • Oh, and maybe don't look down.

  • It's getting brighter!

  • We're here!

  • Visitors who make it all the way

  • to the top of the observatory can see the landscape

  • from above and receive an educational lecture

  • explaining the dynamics of the forest.

  • You can rent snow shoes here!

  • Tokamachi is renowned for its record snowfall every year.

  • There's currently over three meters

  • of snow in the mountains.

  • It's not every day I get to rent snowshoes

  • and venture into the forest on three meters of snow.

  • We're heading over to the nearby forest,

  • Bijinbayashi.

  • Bijin is the Japanese word for beautiful lady

  • and in a poetic way,

  • this refers to the towering beach tree forest

  • as a forest of tall beautiful women.

  • Their appearance changes every season.

  • So this is a location you can look forward

  • to visiting several times throughout the year.

  • In the winter the area is so quiet.

  • You can hear the snow falling off the branches

  • and plunging into the powder below.

  • So it's lunchtime and I'm getting really hungry.

  • We've come to in Satoyama Shokudo in Matsudai,

  • and apparently this place is absolutely gorgeous.

  • It's very artistic.

  • Satoyama Shokudo is another one of the area's

  • many artistic spectacles that draws tourists

  • to the area every year.

  • So the way everything is designed

  • is that the tables have mirrors

  • and they reflect photographs

  • that are actually on the roof.

  • So when you sit at your table and you eat your food

  • you can also browse photographs

  • while also enjoying this gorgeous winter wonderland scenery.

  • Oh my gosh.

  • Wow!

  • So here is our lunch.

  • After a busy morning of snowshoeing

  • this is a great place to relax

  • and take in the scenery while enjoying delicious local food.

  • Next up is a trip to

  • the Museum of Contemporary Art KINARE.

  • Here, they have some uniquely Japanese displays

  • that are really interesting and worth checking out.

  • So this art display is meant to replicate the feeling

  • of being underneath a kotatsu.

  • It's underneath a giant kotatsu

  • so you can see that they have the table,

  • the table legs from real kotatsus.

  • And you can actually switch

  • the kotatsus

  • on and off.

  • Even if you're an adult this is a lot of fun

  • and super cozy.

  • A kotatsu is a Japanese heated table

  • that is typically used in the winter.

  • It is one of the many ways that Japanese people stay warm

  • over the cold months

  • and to be inside a giant one,

  • it was super amazing.

  • The sign says they are kotatsu cars.

  • Oh my God, is this a steering wheel?

  • This is so funny.

  • (laughing)

  • Oh my God.

  • I hit a pillar!

  • Why is she so good?

  • So with these nonbinding snowboards,

  • we're going to go up on the snow hill and try to slide down.

  • Hey, who says museums have to be boring?

  • And if I'm being honest, it was a lot of fun

  • to pretend like I was a kid again.

  • Nice!

  • Yay!

  • (laughing)

  • So now we are at Otogi No Kuni No Bijutsukan

  • and we're about to do an orimono taiken.

  • As you can see here,

  • there are so many different types

  • of woven fabrics across Japan.

  • Every prefecture has their own style.

  • I'm very familiar with hakata-ori

  • which is prominent here in Fukuoka where I'm from.

  • But today I'm in Tokamachi,

  • so I'm going to be learning how to do yoshizawa no orimono.

  • Woven fabrics are made all across Japan

  • and although they can look very similar,

  • the subtle differences between colors

  • and patterns used along with the quality of the thread

  • varies from region to region.

  • So I finished all the blue string

  • and now we've switched to yellow,

  • which will give it a bit of a different color pattern

  • to the next block.

  • - Yoshizawa orimono creates a sturdy silk fabric

  • that is woven thick,

  • perfect for luxury grade kimono

  • and other items that rely on durability and longevity.

  • (speaking Japanese)

  • Thank you!

  • Tokamachi has a lot going on.

  • Aside from hosting art displays

  • it's also a host town for the games.

  • And over the past few years,

  • Tokamachi has been gearing up

  • to welcome Croatia to Japan this summer.

  • Today we've arranged a special interview

  • to learn a little bit more about it.

  • (speaking Japanese)

  • What kind of area is Tokamachi

  • for people who don't know

  • or who have never visited before?

  • - First of all,

  • I think Tokamachi is very very similar to Croatia.

  • In 2002 when the Croatian national soccer team

  • chose this place,

  • they basically chose it

  • because it was very similar to Croatia.

  • The air was kind of dry,

  • also like in Croatia.

  • It reminded them of the places

  • they are usually training at.

  • I also snowboard.

  • So, you know,

  • in Tokamachi

  • it's kind of ridiculous

  • how much snow falls every year.

  • So, I mean,

  • I like it.

  • - As a coordinator for international relations

  • Sven has been working closely

  • with the city to bring the two cultures together.

  • In particular, these Croatian ties

  • are made from durable silk woven fabric from Tokamachi

  • and are a special item that members of the city

  • proudly wear themselves.

  • So one of the most famous foods in Tokamachi

  • if you come to Tokamachi,

  • you absolutely must try hegi-soba.

  • Soba is available all across Japan,

  • but what makes Hegi-soba unique is the way that it's served.

  • The soba is served in a looped shape

  • in a wooden tray,

  • with each loop equaling a mouth full of food.

  • It's definitely more organized

  • and a lot easier to eat this way.

  • I topped it off with some sake and some soba-zenzai.

  • Finally just before leaving Niigata

  • we dropped by the house of light,

  • a very fancy and luxurious ryokan style art space

  • where guests can rent the rooms and stay overnight.

  • With its elegant design and Japanese style bath

  • and sprawling views of the countryside,

  • this is a nice place.

  • I wouldn't mind staying here sometime

  • if I could get a reservation.

  • They're pretty hard as far as I know.

  • When you see a big block of snow,

  • you got to play in it.

  • I don't know when I'll be able to see this much snow again.

  • So we're taking this opportunity

  • to climb all the snowbanks.

  • (laughing)

  • After a quick jump in the snow

  • it was time to get on the train and head back to Niigata,

  • before heading back to Fukuoka.

  • The scenery out here is absolutely gorgeous

  • and there were really surprising ties with Croatia

  • that I didn't expect to find here.

  • I've been doing a lot of host town work this year

  • and I'm always really impressed

  • with the amount of effort and energy and love

  • that goes into building these relationships

  • with other countries in the world.

  • I really, really hope that all of their efforts

  • get to pay off this summer

  • and they get to strengthen their ties with other countries.

  • Thanks so much for watching.

  • And let me know if you enjoyed this video.

  • If you want to watch other videos

  • please check out my playlist and my channel.

  • Thanks.

  • And I'll talk to you guys again soon.

  • Have a great day.

  • Bye.

  • (upbeat music)

(gentle music)

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Tokamachi, Niigata - Hidden Art Village 新潟県十日町

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/31
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