This is how Bokushi Suzuki described Niigata Prefecture in Hokuetsu Seppu. In this snow country tale, Suzuki wrote, “It snows for eight months every year, only the remaining four months are free of snow. For almost half a year, the place is completely covered in snow.” In the eight months of snowy season, sunlight is a non-existence, as all the windows are covered in snow. On the lucky days when it stops snowing, people would clear the snow that has piled up on the roof and on the windows to let the sunlight seep through and shine.
Niigata is the area that has the heaviest snow in Japan, however, the extreme climate brought to the region a particular type of soil that breeds a vibrant vegetation. Under Suzuki’s depiction, the snow country was freezing cold, but the people and their culture were unforgettably warm. Back in his days, the locals would showcase their local produce to prepare for a winter feast. However, as time goes by, like many other villages, young people of Tsunan left the town for job opportunities in the bigger cities and the tradition was then put to an end. Around ten years ago, the area began a new page by hosting the triennale Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, in the hope of reviving the village’s tradition and to promote a dialog between cities and villages.
由小學改建而成的Kamigo Clove Theatre既是展覽場地，裡面也有一間小餐廳。當地婦女在那裡為參觀人士下廚，以當地食材重現冬天盛宴。「我祖爺爺在世時，捕到的大馬哈魚堆積如山，太多時，說送給鄰居們，或拿到割野去賣。⋯⋯還可以抓到絨蛰蟹。捕到唇䱻就做味噌湯 ⋯⋯」桌上的小冊子這樣介紹津南的地道食材之一 —— 大馬哈魚，就是三文魚。津南的中津川河曾經是大馬哈魚活躍之地，它們從這裡潛過水壩奔向大海。大馬哈魚沙津就是用當地三文魚製成，還佐以當地產的清酒製成的醬汁。
Kamigo Clove Theatre is a theatre / exhibition venue transformed from a primary school. In the restaurant of the venue, women of the area use local produce to recreate the old-time winter feast for the visitors. “My late great grandpa was great at catching oncorhynchus keta. When his catch was more than enough he would share with his neighbors or sell them in Warino. Sometime he also caught Chinese mitten crab. He would also make miso from the hemibarbus he caught.” This is how their brochure describes oncorhynchus keta, one of the local catch of Tsunan which is more commonly known as chum salmon. Nakatsugawa River in Tsunan was once a habitat of chum salmon, where they swam through the dam to reach the vast ocean. People use the local catch, matching with the sauce made with the local sake, to prepare their signature salmon salad.
They said, “When the snow melts, the greens thrive in summer, and the autumn foliages turn the mountain into a beautiful red blanket. I hope to see you here again!”