Ojiya: Deep Roots in Snow Country
The city of Ojiya is hidden in the mountains of central Niigata Prefecture, some 200 kilometers north of Tokyo. Because this region gets some of the heaviest snowfall in all Japan, it is known as the Snow Country. Since the old days, people in Ojiya have used this location and climate to their advantage, developing a distinctive culture and traditions all their own. These include Nishiki-goi (ornamental carp) and Ojiya chijimi, a fabric that is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, Paul Riley visits Ojiya in the autumn months, to discover its traditional specialties.

Nishikigoi

Known as "living jewels," these beautiful ornamental carp fish originated in the Ojiya area. Around 200 years ago, common gray carp that were being raised for food developed a mutation which created red blotches on their skin. Centuries of crossbreeding has resulted in the creation of gorgeous fish which have become popular all around the world. Nishiki-goi breeding is now one of the major industries in Ojiya.

Ojiya chijimi

This traditional fabric has been made in the Ojiya area since the 17th century. Woven from ramie threads, the fabric has an uneven texture which prevents it from sticking to the skin in the humid conditions of midsummer in Japan.

Bullfighting

Bullfighting events are held once a month in Ojiya, from May through November. There are no winners or losers in these contests. Once the 2 bulls have been separated, the bout is declared a tie. This is done to prevent the animals from getting injured.

Access

To reach Ojiya from Tokyo, the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train takes an hour and a half to Urasa. From there, you transfer to a local line, which will bring you to Ojiya in another 30 minutes.