Yukmigozen: a day in winter in Minami-abuzaka, Echigo-Tsumari

Posted : March 24, 2017

It was the third year since we began “yukimi-gozen” (special meal overlooking snow). Minami-abuzaka, a small village located on top of the 50m long river terrace welcomed 29 visitors. Okamura house is an old mink house with over120 years of history and was transferred from Kashiwazaki-city. The village decided to use the house which is inhabited by the family today as a venue for welcoming guests with creating atmosphere of some celebration.

The day was beautiful, snow field reflecting sun light under the clear sky.

29 participants of which 8 were from Taiwan had arrived to the venue.

Participants were invited to hop on a hand-made sledge and slide down a long slope which was usually for getting rid of excess snow. Although we prepared this mainly for children to enjoy, grown-ups were also having great fun after all.

Gen Ohta, the local expert in Minami-abuzaka, self-studied the history of the village and published a book in co-operation with his friends. He introduced the history of the village and explained about the snow country.

The participants then experienced making “chinkier”, a small dog-shaped doll made from rice powder which is believed to be bringing happiness to you. There are different shapes of chinkoro such as rabbit and animals from the twelve horary signs. They will get dried and cracks and it has been believed that the more cracks you have the more happiness you will have.

Miwako Furusawa is an expert in Minami-abuzaka who often teaches local children how to make chinkoro. Participants followed her instruction and made unique chinkoro.

We then finally ate yukimi-gozen. We all sat down in the large room and cheered in accordance with Taiwan’s tradition.

People from Taiwan seemed to like miso-mame (miso beans) and the young man had three bowls of rice. The room was filled with warm early spring light.

The highligt of the meal time is a performance of minyo (singing local songs) by a local children, Akari Hosaka.

Fresh voice from her little body in a red kimono dress resonated in the room. Her grand mother played shamisen while her mother sang together as appropriately and performance was delivered by three-generation performers. Local women danced to the last song, “Toakamchi-kouta” and participants from Taiwan joined the circle.

The fun time passed so quickly and Professor Kurakake from Nihon University College of Art gave a closing remark saying he had never seen such a wonderful house even he had been visiting Echigo-Tsumari for over ten years.

After we saw off the participants, all of us sat together and celebrated the successful omotenashi experience as a team. We even had already started to talk about what we could do next time.

Tokiko Amano, staff member of Museum of Picture Book Art

Photo by Ayumi Yanagi

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