Urasa : The Charm of the Old
Many of those who come to visit Urasa are bewildered on the fact that it has its own Shinkansen (Bullet Train) stop despite having a low rate of commuter traffic and a high rate of aging population. One can easily note the surroundings because there are basically nothing much to see. However, that is only at the first glance. When you come to reside at this place, you will discover many of the great things it has to offer and you will be amazed on how lucky it is to be in such a place, even if it is far from anything like Tokyo.
Formerly a village, Urasa is now a subdivision of the city of Minami Uonuma, together with Koide, Muikamachi and more. Just outside of the station, you will see a bronze waving statue of the former 64th and 65th Prime Minister of Japan, Tanaka Kakuei. He was mainly responsible in the actualization of the Joetsu Line of the Shinkansen and connecting small towns such as Urasa to the big cities of Niigata and Tokyo. Thanks to this modernization in the transportation system, those residing in the place particularly students of the Graduate School of International University of Japan can freely move in and out of the place without the hassle of being in a province.
Urasa is the home of a variety of fascinating things such as the Bishamon-do Temple where the annual Naked Man Festival is held, Yairo Watermelon Festival where you can have an eat-all-you-can watermelon for only ￥500, and Mt. Hakkai – which, by the way, is also a brand of sake and a ski resort. Aside from these things, it is a great place to be in tune with nature. In summer, you will feel the boldness of the sun as no skyscraper is present to bring forth shadows. In autumn, you will see all the possible shades of brown, orange and yellow with the abundance of trees in the place. In winter, you will be surprised by the height of snow reaching until 2 meters and will soon be admiring the white scenery. And lastly, in spring, you will witness the lavishness of Cherry Blossoms and enjoy it with the warm and friendly locals of the town.
Situated just a few minutes walk across the station, Bishamon-do Temple houses one of the strangest festivals in Japan, The Naked Man Festival. You can come and visit the place any season of the year but winter will be a good choice to witness the festival – where men brave the harsh season and fight their way to the center of the temple to get good luck charms. Autumn is also a good choice when you wish to admire the changing color of the leaves as this temple stretches all the way to the mountains.
In Japan, Bishamon is a Buddhist deity believed to be the god of war.
2495 Urasa, Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
Yairo Watermelon Festival
For the fruit lovers out there, this is a remarkable opportunity to feast on all the watermelons your stomach can take for a very, very, very cheap price. For only a ￥500, you can stay in their booth (even for the whole day) and munch on the sweet watery goodness of Yairo watermelons. These watermelons are very sweet and appetizing, even perfect for breakfast. It is said that Yairo watermelon is one of the best in the country. How awesome it is to eat quality food without paying a ridiculous amount of money!!!
You can also purchase a whole piece to bring it home or send it as a gift to someone.
5147-1 Urasa, Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
DURATION From July 22 to August 10, 09:00-17:00
PRICE ￥300 for Elementary students and ages below; ￥500 for Junior High School students and ages above
Yummy Handcrafted Ice Cream
This is dubbed as the best Gelato shop in town. Yummy offers premium flavors such as Echigo Wine Milk, Yairo Watermelon Sorbet and Koshihikari Brown Rice Milk. If you are the adventurous foodie type, you should definitely not miss coming to this store.
5138-2 Urasa, Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
Operation Hours [April to November] 10:00～18:00; [December to March]11:00～18:00
Closed on Mondays, No holidays in July to September
Nowadays, young people find it difficult to appreciate rural areas because they are used to the modern and technologically advanced areas which offer several distractions for their fast-paced lifestyles. Cafes, bars, shopping malls – all these have become almost an essential in giving entertainment to the modern man. Gone are the days of interacting with nature and simply admiring its beauty. But thankfully, there are still places such as Urasa where one can find solitude with nature and experience the unhurried and gentle life at the province.
Be it a temple, a fruit or an ice cream, Urasa certainly has great things to offer. “Nothing” is not the word to describe Urasa. In fact, it has “something” that you will never see anywhere else. And visiting it is the only way to find out what that something is.