Locals in Japan's "Snow Country" see Niigata Prefecture as their natural food refrigerator. The snow in the region gives their vegetables a sweeter flavor while extending their shelf life.
Highly remote and inaccessible, the residents find it difficult to travel to town to buy supplies for the harsh winter - especially good food. Nevertheless, since the 8th century, the people have adapted to the climate and turned their situation into an advantage by having their food buried on the ground.
According to Munchies, the food are dug and hid in snow houses called yukimuro and used preservation methods like koji rice "to give the dishes of the region a unique profile, even by Japanese standards." Local produce like carrots, radish, apples and even chili peppers are packed in plastics or crates and kept under the sleet of ice until spring. Farmers even have their fruits and vegetables stay underground until harvest time.
The food are buried at 0c and has high humidity concentration that alters the amino acids of the produce. Therefore, it resulted in a sweeter taste and aroma which most in the country children loved.
What used to be an essential lifestyle for people inhabiting the area, now turns to be a much-loved produce that Japanese restaurants and travelers themselves would want to have. Since Niigata Prefecture's fruits and vegetables supply are limited, most people preorder their foodstuffs beforehand.
Perhaps among the most popular food business in Niigata is Kanzuri which produces fermented red pepper-and-citrus paste, the most famous snow food in Japan. It's being preserved differently than other vegetables because farmers have to pickle the chilies with salt first before flinging it to the snow. They are left on the sleets three to four days just enough to remove the bitterness and hotness of the pepper.
Though many people have wanted a piece of the region's products, not many tourists or younger citizens have known about the prefecture's unique snow refrigerator. Kuniaki Tojo, the third-generation owner of Kanzuri, told BBC News, "The ingredients we produce here are some of the most natural in Japan. Foreigners don't know much about Niigata, so they end up traveling to more famous locations like Kyoto. But to experience real Japanese food culture, I think Niigata is unique. It's still a secret part of Japan."