Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya


2018.08.13

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

A brief drive up the coast from Niigata City, Shioya, once a village outside the castle of town of Murakami, is now a storehouse of traditional Niigata culture, now part of a larger municipal entity. The village’s name (literally: “salt valley”) hints at the former industry of the village, and the remnants of other former commercial activity housed in well-preserved historical buildings are worth a look in, including the Nozawa Food Industry Store and the Marumasu Soy Sauce Factory.

  • Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Shioya’s port area is home to the former commercial hub’s major attraction: the Shioya machiya, a strip of traditional wooden townhouses, warehouses and factories. A walk down the Shioya machiya blocks tells a story of the rise and fall of a commercial center: built from Edo-era brewing, fishing, and salt-making fortunes, fortified by shipping businesses, then laid low by shifts in the local and national economy, and finally marooned, trapped in amber on the rugged coastline of Niigata. Among the machiya, the Nozawa Food Industry Store is one of the finest examples.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    The mighty Nozawa family put their mark on Shioya beginning in the Edo, and the names of the clan’s patriarchs pop up all over the village. After a visit to the nearby Nozawa soy sauce factory, stop by the Nozawa Food Industry Store. The retro facade and preserved interior of the shop are one of a number of Nozawa properties in Shioya, and one of three Nozawa properties that are now Registered Tangible Cultural Properties.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    It is difficult to sift the gems from the dozens of historical properties in the village, but the Marumasu Soy Sauce Factory is a fine example of the trapped-in-amber vibe of Shioya. The factory made use of Shioya’s position as a shipping hub to bring in raw ingredients from Niigata and beyond, and was held by a single family for four generations.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    The “kissaten corner” in the factory’s basement is a place to chill out and soak in the atmosphere. The basement collects artifacts from the day-to-day lives of the factory workers, as well as rarer items from the family that built their wealth from fermented soybeans.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    The minimalist logo of the defunct soy sauce concern grace both dusty bottles salvaged from the factory floor and also neat tote bags. The smells of the fermenting vats seem to still cling in the air, even though the factory ceased operations decades ago—it’s impossible not to feel as if one has slipped back in time to at least the turn of the last century.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    The historical center of Shioya is centered on the old port town, running along the coast, north of the mouth of the Arakawa River. The area is home to innumerable treasures waiting for discovery, including traditional sweets shops and charming, unmolested shrines and temples. Getting to Shioya by car is probably the best option, but it can also be reached by taxi from Hirabayashi Station on Uetsu Main Line or from the marginally busier Murakami Station.

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

    Touring the Shipping Hub of Shioya

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