Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Discover The Designer Crafts Of Niigata At hickory03travelers
Written by madoka hasegawa
Many may imagine Niigata to be a prefecture filled with rice and seafood, but at hickory03travelers, you can find trendy items that combine the old with the new, using designs and packaging incorporating traditional items and styles from Niigata.
What is hickory03travelers?
hickory03travelers, (read ”hickory three travelers”), is a group of designers who work together in Niigata under the concept of ”daily enjoyment”. They are known to remake traditional snacks and crafts using modern designs and packaging. Their products have gotten high ratings from all over Japan for their calming, natural designs. This time we have gone to visit their store.
This shop with large glass windows and items lined inside and out of the shop is hickory03travelers.
Once you enter the store, you will find many souvenirs and crafts from Niigata on display. The first floor is the shop and the second floor is used for events and as an exhibition space.
A Konpeito-Like Snack, the Ukihoshi
Once you enter the shop, you will find a cute konpeito (*1)-like snack. This is actually a traditional treat of Niigata with sticky rice coated in sugar syrup.
It was originally called ”yukari” and was popular among those who lived in Niigata. However, lately, the sales have gone down. That was when hickory03travelers remade and redesigned the traditional treat with the hopes of making it into a casual souvenir or a daily snack.
They added more flavors, added a cute illustration and renamed the product ”Ukihoshi”. It became a great hit and many people came to visit seeking the Ukihoshi.
*1 konpeito: a small spiky rock candy made from sugar.
How to Eat Ukihoshi
1. Put 1-2 large spoonfuls of Ukihoshi in a cup.
2. Pour hot water in it and wait.
3. Once the Ukihoshi start to float, it is ready to drink. Enjoy the various flavors and sweetness of the drink.
4. After a while, some arare (small puffs made of rice) will come out of the Ukihoshi. You can enjoy their chewy texture while drinking the rest.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the Ukihoshi. You may just eat it on its own or put it in tea, soda, yoghurt, or even ice cream. For those who would like to savor the treat in the Niigata fashion, adding it to Japanese sake is also recommended. The dry flavors of the sake and the sweetness of the Ukihoshi harmonizes into a delicious overall taste.
Select a Package with Influences from Niigata
The Ukihoshi can be put into clear bags or tin cans.
The clear bag comes with cute packaging with illustrations of the crested ibis, rice and other popular icons from Niigata. Each package has a blend of 2-4 flavors, which are: ginger, matcha green tea, yuzu citrus, coffee, milk. strawberry, mint, and plain (sugar). They are tasty on their own or as a hot drink. And, if you add the yuzu citrus type to a cup of tea, you can enjoy a refreshing cup of citrus-infused tea.
The main design on the cans is the image of a snowman. They used silver foil and the snowman to represent the snowy region of Niigata. There are five flavors inside with yuzu citrus, strawberry, mint, milk, and cafe au lait.
The snowman type comes in 20g packaging for 560 yen (before tax). It is great for small souvenirs. The canned types have different packaging according to seasonal events such as Christmas and New Year's too. There are also recommended flavors of summer and winter as well.
Send Rice as a Gift?
There are also other specialty products of Niigata that have been remade with the power of design.
One of them is the Niigata no Omusubi, the rice ball in the photo above. Niigata is a major rice producer of Japan and their specialty, a type of rice called Koshihikari, is known to be a delicious brand-name rice all over the nation. This is Niigata's Koshihikari rice wrapped in a tenugui (*2) shaped to resemble rice ball packaging.
After eating the rice inside, you can keep the tenugui which makes a great souvenir of your trip to Japan as well.
*2 tenugui: A Japanese style towel that is used to dry the hands, or for many other things, including being worn on the head during festivals.
Many Souvenirs Representing Niigata
In this shop, you will also find an area carrying various souvenirs from Niigata. For instance, there is tea from Murakami city that has been packaged nicely along with coffee and pancake mixes that are produced in various areas of Niigata.
In another area of the shop, you can find seasonal items or goods that make perfect gifts. Seasonal items include knit hats that are a must-have item for cold winters in Niigata or slippers made at Kamedajima. You can also find regional products, such as Tsubame coffee products made in Tsubame city, Niigata.
There are some products made by creators outside of Niigata or even outside of Japan as well. If they find products that catch their attention, they bring them in and sell themt in the shop for more recognition too.
Go Up to the Second Floor
If you go up the stairs behind the register, you can go up to the second floor which is a large gallery-like space.
The ceramic bowls laid out on the old-fashioned desk create a calming and retro atmosphere. If you find anything here that you like, you can also purchase them on the first floor. The displays on the second-floor change from time to time, and each exhibition of items by the designers has a stylish flair to it. You are likely to make new discoveries here no matter how many times you visit!
Aside from displays, they hold live events on a random basis as well. There are times when the display area is closed for one of these events however, so it is a good idea to check the schedule on their site in advance.
The Origin of the Name hickory03travelers
hickory03travelers is located inside an 80 year old building that was formerly a sake shop, that was then used as a event space before being purchased.
The name comes from the three creators and their passion for travel. They began this business with hopes of creating a fun place that would bring in more people to the nearly deserted shopping street. Now, many customers come from around the prefecture and all over the nation.
While designing hoodies and T-shirts like the photo, they provide design ideas for local and traditional products that have been around in Niigata.
How to Get to hickory03travelers
You can get to the shop from Niigata Station or Hakusan Station.
Acess From Niigata Station
From the Bandai Exit of Niigata Station, you can take a Niigata Kotsu bus from either Line 0 or Line 1. Take this bus until you reach the Furumachi bus stop, get off and walk for about 10 minutes down Furumachi Street towards Hakusan Shrine.
From the Bandai Exit of Niigata Station, head in the Furumachi direction and walk for about 20-30 minutes. Once you reach the Furumachi intersection, turn left and walk about ten minutes.
It takes about ten minutes to reach by taxi and will cost about 1000 yen. If you are traveling with a group of people, it may be best to split the fare.
From Hakusan Station
The shop is about a twenty minute walk from Hakusan Station. You can also walk through Hakusan Park and see Hakusan Shrine and Furumachi Ichibangai as well via this route.
If you happen to visit Niigata, why not add some modern takes on traditional goods as souvenirs, along with the great seafood and sake available there? Your friends and family are sure to enjoy the cute illustrations on the products just as much as you do.