Recently Nathan and I needed to make a visit to Nagaoka. As restauranteurs, we are always looking for great places for locally sourced food. So what better time to explore Settaya, an area famous for the brewing of Shoyu (soya sauce) and Sake.
We took the Kanetsu Freeway from Ishiuchi (one stop north of Yuzawa) and exited at the Nagaoka turnoff (about 50 minutes).
Once at the exit we turned left and headed towards Nagaoka Station. After some mucking around, we made our way through town, with the name of the place where we wanted to visit, “Koshi no Murasaki,” thanks to our friend Kumiko Machida from 8Trips who runs tours of Niigata (you’ll find her in the YukiGuni Times Directory).
So we stopped at a delicious-looking tiny cake shop and the lady was so lovely and helpful, she pointed us in the right direction; so naturally, of course we had to buy some of her scrumptious cakes!
Navigating the tiny streets, we followed google maps and found our way to Koshi no Murasaki – and we were not disappointed! The ancient building stood out in the streetscape with its impressive facade:
We were warmly greeted by staff at the door and ducked our heads at the entrance into a corridor with more staff scurrying around filling in orders. The manager greeted us and was surprised we have a restaurant in Ishiuchi, “We’re looking for authentic shoyu,” we said, which was enough for the manager to hurriedly bring us wet towels, “What for?” we thought, so we wiped our hands.
Then the manager produced three bottles of their best brewed shoyu and asked us to hold out our hands, palm up, “Eh?” so we politely obliged…therein he dripped a single drop of delicious shoyu which we were to lick off our palms! “Aha!”
…so d e l i c i o u s! The aroma, the saltiness…the umami!!!
The next sample was different, its flavour slightly milder and sweeter but with a characteristic salty, fermented shoyu flavour…wonderful! “We’ll buy 5 Litres of each! Oh, and can we order more soon by email?” They were most happy to hear that and will take email orders.
A third brewed product, not actually a shoyu, is a fine marinating sauce for vegetables. “Soak vegetables for 3 hours in the sauce, then serve,” he said. Yummy! We couldn’t wait to get home and try it.
The tiny payment booth window had a little hinged wooden shelf that the manager opened so we could put our money there for payment, which we were most happy to do so and were pleasently surprised at the price of our purchase.
We also purchased a gift pack to give as an omiyage to our friends who had come to help us out on a project in Nagaoka.
On our way out, it was drizzling, and the manager gave us two umbrellas for our 5 metre walk to the car. Such wonderful omotenashi!
Then he produced a map, a walking guide to the various ancient factories in the area, we were surprised and delighted! He said the nearest is the sake brewery, five minutes walk down the mysterious winding path – how could we resist?
Right next to the shoyu brewery is a shrine which was built in 1822, to bring prosperity to business in the local area. It is protected by Inari, the fox god:
…and the mysterious path in between tall buildings and sweet-smelling fermentation tanks:
“Which way to go? Right or straight ahead?” We chose the latter. Fortunate that we did because looming up on the right was a small wooded park, and a ramshackled shack with a small sign. We weren’t sure it was the right place so we asked a worker passing by, “Sake?” As we pointed to the right? “Hi!” He said. Then he said something about it being closed…but a lady at that moment came out of the side door and greeted us warmly, so we walked up the little path:
Inside, the lady directed us to a video in English, but we were more interested in the serious-looking men in suits at the other end of the room, tasting sake with a tall foreigner…
Being curious as he is, Nathan approached the group and asked to taste the sake. They were happy to oblige, and the sake was absolutely clear and delicious; but alas, Nathan had interrupted an important meeting. The guy from USA was an important customer, there to purchase the first of many 40-foot containers of sake!
Nathan apologised profusely and they were most polite and accomodating.
We watched the movie, very interesting how the process of sake is created (you can view it on their website, below), then we purchased from the shop, a bottle of sparkling sake and a bottle of yuzu (Japanese citrus liqueur). We think our restaurant patrons might like the sparkling sake, so we need to try it first 🙂
It is really worthwhile to plan a trip to Nagaoka to visit Settaya.
“Adieu to Settaya, we look forward to visiting you again soon.”
Nagaoka Tourism Information
(Nagaoka hosts one of the biggest fireworks festival in summer in Japan, they are very organised for tourists)