Rediscovering the use of land under a new concept of ‘Play/Snow/Harvest/Sell’ in the snow country of Inoyama, in Myoko City, Niigata Prefecture.

Renowned for its heavy snowfall, the people of Myoko see snow as a necessity for their survival. Snow provides endless entertainment for countless ski resorts, and when it melts it seeps through the mountains to nourish crops for consumption.
Utilizing this abundant natural resource – “the tree that keeps on giving” – snow lovers gather to create a cycle of economic activity to sustain the community and the people among it. This is the concept of ‘Play/Snow/Harvest/Sell’.

‘Play’ – Snow lovers who can’t get enough of snow gather together
‘Snow’ – Utilize snow country as not only a platform for entertainment but also to create a lifestyle base.
‘Harvest’ – Use the abundant runoff water from the mountains to incorporate farming into our lifestyle
‘Sell’ – Create a business model unique to the snow country that sells various products made by the people

The ultimate goal is to increase the number of people moving to Myoko from big cities, choosing Myoko as their permanent home.
One way we gave life to the concept of ‘Play/Snow/Harvest/Sell’ was by planting Yukibancho Rice.
We created it to give shape and form to the strong feelings many people have towards snow mountains, and this special brand of rice is produced by these people.

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The special characteristics of Yukibancho Rice

Yukibancho Rice is a brand of Koshihikari rice produced on a terraced rice paddy in the Inoyama district of Myoko City. Rich in minerals from runoff water directly from the mountain, Yukichancho Rice is a safe and reliable rice using hardly any pesticides and chemical fertilizers. With a deep flavor and just the right amount of stickiness, the rice is flavorful even when cold. That’s why it makes great “onigiri” rice balls to take to the mountain.

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The Story of Yukichancho Rice

The production of Yukibancho Rice is done by local farmers in the Myoko area. We spoke with Ozaki-san and Kata-san who lead the group.

- How did you start making Yukibancho Rice?

Ozaki: “Probably the Myoko Clubfield Project. I had known Takuya Tsukada since back in the day when he used to work for the old Arai Resort, and he brought up the idea of reusing the unused land to create a private club to ski and snowboard there once again. I’ve always wanted to be involved in community work that gives back to this area where I live and love, and so I gave a big thumbs-up to Tsukada-san’s ‘Play-Snow-Harvest-Sell’ concept and started by creating a prototype.”

- What is the rice like?

Ozaki: “It is made in the Inoyama district of Myoko City. A distinct characteristic is that it uses mountain runoff water on a terraced rice paddy field.”
Kata: “Terraced rice paddies are a lot more cumbersome than flat fields. But there is good soil and clean runoff water from the mountain. We can’t produce as much rice, but it tastes very good.”
Ozaki: “We are really proud of the clean water, soil and air.”

- Where does the stream come from?

Ozaki: “It comes from the subsoil water from Mt. Namba.”
Kata: “We want to grow good food and be conscious of the environment down in the valley, so we avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides as much as possible.”
Ozaki: “It’s the rice we eat. We want to keep it safe and reliable.”

- What is the type of rice?

Kata: “It is a Koshihikari. The Koshihikari from the Uonuma area is famous, but it’s a big area. There are places that produce very good rice, but our Koshihikari from Inoyama district is just as good.”

- Are you planning on branding the Yukibancho Rice?

Ozaki: “Because we are particular about providing good quality rice, we would like to establish our brand by standardizing the fertilizer and the production process. But that is not the only goal – ultimately we want more people to come to Myoko, and this is one way of doing that.”
Kata: “I think we can create a brand of rice that wins prizes in competitions, but we don’t want it to become a “phantom rice” that nobody can find. We will be happy when we know we are providing something that people love.”