Echigo-Tsumari is a rural region of Niigata Prefecture, famous for its high quality rice, sake and heavy snow during winter. The region is a great place to experience "satoyama", the traditional Japanese lifestyle of living in harmony with nature, which can be felt when traveling along the countryside with its small farming villages, terraced rice fields and farmers working in the fields in old fashioned straw hats.

The product of these farming efforts is high quality Koshi Hikari rice, one of the best and highest priced brands of Japanese rice. And with delicious rice and clear water naturally comes a variety of good local sake (rice wines).

The region is also blessed with several hot springs. Among them, Matsunoyama Onsen is ranked as one of Japan's three best medicinal hot springs, alongside Kusatsu and Arima.

Every year from December to April, Echigo-Tsumari gets buried under deep layers of snow, sometimes exceeding three meters in depth. With new snow falling almost daily, snow removal becomes an essential daily chore. The heavy snowfall also reflects on the local architecture, which features second floor entrances and roofs built for easy snow removal.

The tough lifestyle is also a main reason for the region's dramatic depopulation as young people leave the Echigo-Tsumari region for the cities and their wider education and employment options. In some villages, half the population is aged 65 and over. Indeed, when driving around, you will mainly see friendly elderly people working in the fields, while the sight of children is rare.

The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale successfully contributes to the revitalization of the region by highlighting its beauties, attracting new visitors and involving the local communities.

Getting there and around