I remember when my husband and I were still dating, we would drive to the north to his hometown on school breaks (we met while in university), we would pass this long, winding river from Nagano Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture from Kanagawa.
This is Japan’s longest and largest river and flows from the mountainous region of Nagano to the plains of Niigata and exit to the sea of Japan.
Now that we have kids, of course we wanted them to see it too.
The river is approximately 367 kilometers (228 miles) long and we chose a road by the river as much as we can when we had a road trip to Niigata again last summer. It was a long journey and then we stopped to take photos. Benjamin was asleep in the car when we parked so only Pristine and I went out to take some snaps.
In Niigata, the river is called Shinano River, maybe to remind people that this river flows from the prefecture of Nagano (Shinano is the old name of Nagano). In Nagano on the other hand, the river is called Chikuma River. The Japanese characters for the word “chikuma” means “a thousand bends”.
Because the land near the river is very fertile, there are a lot of fruit and vegetable farms near it. The rich soil of Niigata, home to Japan’s tastiest rice variety (other areas like Akita will debate this though!) owes its richness to this river.
Summer in Japan meant farmer’s markets where the freshest produce can be bought at a cheaper price than the ones in the grocery stores. Every time we go to the in-laws, we always drop by to buy these luscious pears.
The pears was meant for grandpa and grandma but almost always, we end up eating it ourselves. The kids loved it and asked, can we get this in Dubai too?
Erm, maybe but not as sweet and plump and fresh! It’s really different when the food has traveled a lot than when it’s produced locally. Farm to table food are always the best.
One tray with 3-4 peaches is 580 yen (approx. US$5). I am not sure if it’s cheap or expensive but the peaches at farmer’s markets are cheaper than when they are in the grocery stores and definitely fresher so we buy them in bulk, no questions asked.
Last year, Pristine ate the peaches with gusto like it’s her first time. She really thought it was her first peach. Little did she know that these were her favorite summer fruit way back then! Indeed traveling with children is not a waste – it relieves them of memories lost!
Then there was satsuma-imo (Japanese sweet potatoes). They are my favorite kind of sweet potatoes. The ones which live up to their name…it’s really sweet. Usually their season is during autumn when the weather cools down and you can hear the shout of “yaki—imo!” outside. Compared to orange colored yams, the Japanese sweet potato (sometimes called oriental sweet potato, or Satsuma potato) is much sweeter and more densely textured – almost like a chestnut. A creamy chestnut.
If you’ve lived in Japan long enough to be there in Autumn, you would have heard of the cry of the ishi yaki-imo man, the stone roasted sweet potato seller. I loved rushing down from my school dormitory to buy some piping hot potatoes wrapped in newspaper. Ah, foodie memories of Japan!
Where was I?
Initially wanting to talk about Japan’s longest river and then the peaches and the sweet potatoes. Wow, this happens when your mind drifts away while looking at old photo files in the hard disk drive!