NIHONMONODiscovering Japan [Nihon] through authentic craftsmanship [Honmono]

Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima  <#Prologue> Going to Fukushima

Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima
<#Prologue> Going to Fukushima

Hidetoshi Nakata has traveled around Japan and the world since retiring from soccer, sharing appealing features of Japan that he discovered during his travels. Nakata, who has expanded his realm of activities, is now spending the year traveling in Fukushima. During his first visit, he discovers premium water which is found in the grand nature of Oku Aizu.

Charm of traveling – local discoveries

Nakata retired from soccer 12 years ago at the age of 29. The second stage of his life began with traveling around the world. As he travelled to more than 90 countries, he discovered there was much he didn’t know about Japan even as a Japanese. In 2009, he turned his attention to Japan, travelling to all 47 prefectures over a 7 year period. His travels now shed light on little known aspects of Japanese culture, part of his efforts to support their popularization and development. He has travelled on numerous occasions to Fukushima, which is well known for its many breweries.

“A unique feature of Fukushima is that there are three cultural regions in the prefecture, all of which has a very colorful and distinct culture – Hamadori, Nakadori and Aizu.”
Nakata comments that there is a new discovery each time he visits Fukushima, with its third largest land, varied climate, and diverse culture.
Nakata has shared the appeal of Japanese sake and traditional kogei to many over the years. At this year’s “CRAFT SAKE WEEK” which he produces, the “Oku Aizu Kaneyama Natural Spring Water” was used as Yawaragimizu.

Onuma Kaneyama is located in the western part of the Aizu region of Fukushima, near the border with Niigata prefecture. The water from the valley of Tadami River is naturally bubbly even though it is soft. It was so popular that it was exported to Europe during the Meiji era, but transporting the water was difficult, quickly ending its production. The water made a revival due to the dedicated locals who continued to protect their local water.

Rediscovering the appeal of Fukushima with its diverse culture

“Oku Aizu Kaneyama Natural Spring Water” is produced by Harves Co., Ltd. which is located in Saitama prefecture. Tomonori Maeda, the president of the company, heard about the natural spring water of Kaneyama from a client, and decided to commercialize it soon after visiting the site. With the support of locals, he dug a new well and built a factory, and began selling the water in 2004.
Nakata learned about the water about 7 to 8 years ago. He reflects that it made a big impression because it was naturally bubbly.
“While sparkling water has become popular recently, it was not common back then. It must have been the pioneer of natural spring water.”
It became widely popular and is even served in Michelin listed Japanese and French restaurants. The fine delicate bubbles are perfect for 和らぎ水. It brings out the delicate flavors of sake.

Nakata was invited to visit the factory in Kaneyama city. His interest was peaked on learning about a bubbling hot spring nearby. He was now even more motivated to unearth a hidden treasure.
“Fukushima is blessed with many wonderful materials such as foods, sake and traditional kogei. I’m sure there are many that even the locals are not familiar with. And even something that might be standard for locals, can be a new discovery when viewed from a different perspective, so I am excited to uncover new information.”

The venue of “CRAFT SAKE WEEK at ROPPONGI HILLS 2018” where the discussion took place


5298-3 Kaminoyama, Oshio, Kaneyama-machi, Onuma-gun, Fukushima