⟨Special Feature⟩

The fun of winter in Shitada

There’s lots to do in the beautiful, natural setting of Shitada, Sanjo City, Niigata, throughout the year. When autumn turns toward winter, one of the most enjoyable activities here is winter camping. Compared to many regions, Niigata prefecture has many campgrounds, and is a center for winter sports activities, but there are surprisingly few places where you can camp in winter. Local entertainer and outdoor expert Swamp provided a unique insight into the fun of camping when the temperatures are low.


Sanjo native Swamp is a man who loves both music and nature, and is active in promoting outdoor activities. He hosts the Niigata-area radio showTabisuru Tento (Travel Tent)」, featuring outdoor activities based around tent camping. He has also been a rap performer since his teens, when he first began using the Swamp name, giving live performances, releasing several CDs and working as a songwriter. He is especially known for his freestyle raps, and has won a number of competitions. From 2005 he spent 12 years in radio production and performance, providing song selection, hosting, mixing and production, before going independent.
He has also become a well-known gourmand, working in a wide range of food-related projects including collaboration on product and menu development with major restaurants and event production. He is also interested in DIY activities, and has also been working on renovating an old house.His outdoor life radio show A Laid-Back Life: Tabisuru Tento currently airs on a Niigata-wide radio station.

The Slow and Steady fun of camping in Shitada

“HI, I’m Swamp. I’m from Sanjo City, and, while I’ve camped in many places over the years, I think there are unique charms to Shitada that you don’t find in other places. Just drive 30 minutes from the urban areas of Sanjo, and you’re accessing a whole new world. Here you can find excellent locally produced vegetables, meat, rice—and even locally-made camping gear! I enjoyed winter camping here in Shitada, and I’d like to introduce some ideas on how to get the most out of this fun activity.”

Day 1: 10:30 am

A stop at Yagi Shrine for a prayer and spring water

“Before we headed to the camping site, we stopped to visit Yagi Shrine, where the ubusunagami, the local kami (deity), is enshrined. The area all around here is a source of pure Yagigahana spring water. Water is a basic necessity for camping, so this is a great place to come to and collect some delicious, pure spring water. The shrine is a very historic place, being built in 807. It is known as a place of healing. For centuries, people have come here to worship the kami, which is the guardian deity of the town.”

Day 1: 11 am

Picking up supplies at Kangaku no Sato

“The Michi no Eki (roadside station) Kangaku no Sato is located in the center of Shitada, and not far from Yagi Shrine. Michi no eki are great places to find local produce, specialty products and souvenirs, so we decided to shop here. Depending on the season, you can find rice, vegetables and even peanuts, all locally produced. For our stay this time, I bought some radishes and mushrooms, perfect ingredients for winter camp food. I wanted to add some meat as well, so we went to Yokota Meat Shop, which sells mostly to local people. It includes a supermarket as well, but I was really there for the fresh, locally produced meat. For lunch, I bought some ‘Yokota tulips,’ a crispy, juicy bone-in-meat dish that is a specialty of the shop. It’s delicious—I definitely recommend it!”

Day 1: 11:30 am

Lunch at Niwatsukian Goku, the restaurant in Kangaku no Sato

“Niwatsukian Goku, located inside Kangaku no Sato, calls itself a farm restaurant. It provides a wide menu of local dishes using local ingredients—they’re very focused on local production for local consumption. There are many local gems, dishes that can only be enjoyed here, including ginger-grilled Sanjo pork, Shitada vegetables, and Yagigahana Tendon, a bowl of rice topped with shrimp tempura. I tried the Otani Dam Curry, a specialty of the restaurant named for the nearby dam, and shaped like a dam of rice with a lake of delicious curry!”

Day 1: 1 pm

Arrival at Snow Peak Headquarters Campfield; begin setting camp

“We checked in at the Snow Peak Headquarters Campfield, a Shitada spot featuring year-round camping. This vast area covers some 41 acres, so there’s plenty of space to enjoy camping. One nice feature is that Snow Peak camping gear is available for rental (more information at Tebura Camp), so you can basically arrive empty-handed and get everything you need for comfortable camping. They have not only tents and sleeping bags, but also campfire sets and tableware, so even inexperienced campers can have a great camp experience.”

Day 1: 4:30 pm

Cooking a dinner of carefully-selected local ingredients

“The real fun for me in winter camping is in cooking dinner! And since you’re going to the effort to make a nice meal, you might as well make it one that reflects the place where you are. For today’s dinner I made a tomato oden, using the vegetables from Kangaku no Sato, and a pork steak using Niigata pork that had been seasoned with shio koji. I like to make menus that aren’t too ambitious when we’re winter camping, such as a combination of simple stewed dishes along with vegetables and meat. We also enjoyed the meal along with some Shitada blueberry wine and Niigata saké, and some nice conversation.”

Day 1: from 6 pm

Dinner, and enjoying Shitada

“With a bonfire nearby as we enjoyed a hot dinner, we talked about the attractions of Shitada. First, with no major urban area nearby, the night sky is full of stars. It’s a place where you can forget about daily life, and we relaxed and felt time starting to slow down. Using camping gear from right here in Sanjo added a lot to the experience, too; they’ve been manufacturing a wide range of products here for many years, some that are now world-famous. We also felt the connection of the campground and the outdoor manufacturer who runs it, a local connection that builds on the local produce, the local saké and wine, the nearby hot springs and all the nature around us—everything you need for great camping is right here! I really understood the idea of Slow and Steady Shitada. Winter camping, with the luxury of just being able to relax, take it slow and easy!”

Day 1: 10 pm

Lights out!

“The trick to enjoying a warm nights’ sleep in winter camping is to sleep away from the ground, and to make sure that no cold air comes in. Sleeping on a portable cot makes a huge difference in staying warm. You want to have a sleeping bag that is rated for the lowest temperature possible at the campsite, and, if possible prepare a hot water bottle. Spread out the sleeping bag in advance, and fluff it up to get some air inside, which will also make it warmer once you’re in it. Winter camping does have some dangers involved, so safety is something to pay attention to. We rented a Snow Peak stove, and place it in the living room area of the tent, which made for a warm, comfy time while we were awake. But, because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, we put out the fire before going to bed.”

Day 2: 6:30 am


“The cold air is wonderfully bracing as I carefully grind the morning’s coffee. This is when I really feel that I’m winter camping; it’s a relaxing and enjoyable moment that I get a bit excited about. I used a Snow Peak hot sandwich iron to make hot sandwiches, which are a basic in winter camp cooking. This morning the choice was a simple ham and egg hot sandwich. It’s a pleasure to have a local choice not only in the food ingredients, but in camp gear as well!”

Day 2: 11 am

A Shitada winter tradition:
Encountering the swans

“We packed up, left the Snow Peak Headquarters Campfield, and drove about 10 minutes away to the Hakucho no Sato Koen (Swan Park). Every year, about 400 migratory swans make their winter home here on the Igarashi River. It’s quite unusual for swans wintering in Japan to stay on a river, rather than on a lake. This makes for a very enjoyable scene, as the swans flutter their feet in the gentle flow of the water as they search for food. Food for the swans can be purchased at the observation building next to the parking lot, and it’s a lot of fun to feed the big white birds. Behind the swans and the river stands the 1,293-meter Mt. Awagatake, all in white. It’s a spectacular winter sight, and something very special about Shitada.”

Day 2: Noon

Enjoying a soak at Yagigahana Onsen

“You’re going to get cold at times when you winter camp, so a relaxing soak in an onsen (hot spring) is a great way to chase away any lingering chill. Just 10 minutes from the Swan Park is Ii Yu Ratei, an onsen right next to the spectacular Yagigahana rock formation, a Shitada landmark. Knowing that there’s a nice hot onsen nearby does make for a sense of security for winter camping! Ii Yu Ratei is a beautiful facility, with excellent views of Yagigahana from the outdoor baths. I really felt the power of the huge rock, and really felt grateful to be alive and to have had this wonderful time here. I sank deeply not only into the hot water, but into the memories of our camp experience, and slowly began to reset body and spirit.”




Snow Peak Headquartersのフィールドをスノーモービルでゴムボートをひっぱって走るスノーラフティングは、大人から子どもまで楽しめるアクティビティ。乗ってみると思った以上にスリリングで、大人のわたしでも大声を出してはしゃいでしまうほど。雪上を最高時速200kmのスノーモービルに引っ張られる感覚はなかなか味わえません!ファミリーだけでなく、大人同士で楽しむグループキャンプのアクセントにも使えます。



朝起きたら清々しい朝日の中、スノーシューを履いて散策。Snow Peak Headquarters内にある広大な敷地の雪を踏みしめながら、自然の音に耳を澄ませます。途中で見つけたいくつかの足跡はウサギのもの。大きさや足跡の残り具合からいつ、どんな動物が通ったのかを推測できるのだそうです。ほかにも虫が食べた熊笹や大きな倒木などの解説があり、ただ歩くだけではない大感動のネイチャーガイドツアーとなりました。


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