A JR EAST Train Trip to Tsubame-Sanjo ①: Local Artisans, Traditional Methods, and Modernization Made Beautiful

Chubu Tour Tsubamesanjo 2021.04.28
Join Japankuru on a trip to this lesser-known JR EAST shinkansen station, in a part of Japan where exquisite craftsmanship meets modern artisan elegance. Find out more about the best local spots recommended by the JR EAST staff themselves!

Tsubame & Sanjo: Two Cities of Artisans, Craftsmanship, and Open Factories

Ready to hop on the shinkansen and head into Japan's countryside? Tsubamesanjō Station is uniquely situated on the very border between two small cities in Niigata: Tsubame, and Sanjo. But these two cities share a common past full of artisans and handicrafts, and to this day the area is known as a travel destination thanks to the region's beautiful handmade items, factories that take advantage of both traditional methods and modern advancements, and unique opportunities for visitors to see it all for themselves. From beautiful wooden chopsticks and gently hand-beaten copper teapots, to carefully sharpened clippers and knives, the modern artisans both preserve and improve upon traditions in order to create Japanese masterpieces each and every day, and travelers who visit the "open factories" of Tsubame and Sanjo are treated to a chance to see how it's done!

Getting to Tsubamesanjō Station

As a stop on the JR EAST Jōetsu Shinkansen (bullet train), access to Tsubamesanjō Station is extremely convenient for anyone starting in or around Tokyo! Tsubamesanjō Station is one of a dozen along the train line, which starts from Tokyo Station and stops at Ueno before heading into Niigata Prefecture, and finally arriving in the Tsubame-Sanjo area!

The trip is a little under two hours, which makes this an ideal destination for a weekend away, or a little excursion using a rail pass. The "JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)" is especially convenient when heading to Tsubame-Sanjo: for 18,000 yen (tax included), the pass lets you ride all the JR EAST trains you want for five days, including shinkansen and limited express trains, and even some JR buses. From Tokyo to Tsubamesanjō Station, tickets with reserved seats normally cost a little under 19,000 yen round trip, but using the pass means you can freely travel all over Niigata and Nagano during your trip. You don't have to be a short-term traveler in Japan, either. Foreign residents can use the pass too!

JR East
"About JR EAST"
Official Website (en)
"Seat Reservation Service Online for Shinkansen and Limited Express Train in East Japan Region"
JR EAST Train Reservations (en)

Gyokusendo: Hammered-Copper Kettles, Rounded to Perfection

As a region of craftspeople, Tsubame and Sanjo are full of artisans making beautiful items using methods of all kinds, but perhaps no producer represents the area's traditional techniques better than Gyokusendo (玉川堂), where you can tour the workshop to see copper sheets artfully formed into shapely tea kettles. The Tsubame-Sanjo area has been known for metalworking since the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), and evidence shows us that locals on Mount Yahiko were mining copper and using it to make decorations for Shinto shrines by the year 1650. The particular method of hammered copperware used at Gyokusendo, called "tsuiki" (鎚起), was brought to the region from the city of Sendai in the late 1700s. After three generations of copper-working, the Tamagawa family finally established the Gyokusendo workshop in 1816.
Throughout the 19th century, Gyokusendo evolved from making simple, everyday copper kettles and teapots, to the high-end artisan items they sell today, gaining recognition from the Japanese imperial family and finding popularity at World Expos along the way. Today, visitors will find Gyokusendo based out of a traditional Japanese building, with a small workshop where artisans spend the day gently tap-tap-tapping away at sheets of copper. Slowly but surely, the flat pieces of metal are rounded and sculpted using hammers, as the workers form elegant shapes and curved spouts seemingly out of nowhere.
Gyokusendo makes and sells a number of different high-end items, including some interesting products produced in collaboration with other workshops around Japan (like copper and glass stemware), and has storefronts in places like Tokyo's ritzy Ginza neighborhood. Despite the high prices, staff say that their best-sellers are undoubtedly their big items like copper kettles and teapots, which might cost between 75,000 and 600,000 yen. But you can't put a price on this traditional workmanship! Whether you can afford to take a piece of tsuiki copperware home with you or not, though, a peek into Gyokusendo's workshop is worth seeing!

Gyokusendo (玉川堂)
2-2-21 Chuodori, Tsubame, Niigata
Official Website (en)
*If you're interested in learning about the workshop in English, try contacting Gyokusendo ahead of time to make sure you visit when their Canadian member of staff is around!

Suwada: Nail Clippers Made to Last a Lifetime

For a more modern take on the Tsubame-Sanjo region's crafting traditions, Suwada specializes in cutting tools, and the company is known for their nail clippers and bonsai shears. Founded in 1926, Suwada's facilities and their products have evolved with the times, and visitors to their modern "open factory" can see how things have changed, while the company still strives to maintain their artisanal attention to detail.

In Japan you can pick up some cheap, flimsy nail clippers at the 100-yen store, while Suwada's hand-crafted clippers cost thousands of yen. So when the current president took over the company as the third generation in this family-owned business, staff will tell you that he decided to show visitors exactly why Suwada nail clippers cost more, and why customers should make such an investment on a mundane, everyday product. In order to show off the workmanship that goes into making these high-quality nail clippers, Suwada opened their factory to the world, and visitors can now walk alongside the factory floor and watch the artisans at work, as they grind edges into sharpened perfection and carefully examine products with jeweler's loupes to make minute corrections.
Apparently, when Suwada first started allowing factory tours, staff were nervous about having observers. But as time went on and they saw the awed and impressed looks on the visitors' faces, the factory workers began to take pride in showing off their work. Now, at least from a visitor's perspective, it seems like the craftspeople are too concentrated on their work to even notice!

Visiting the new Suwada open factory opened in 2020, not only can you see the factory floor in action, but you can also see some impressive metal art made with leftover steel! There's even a little Italian cafe, attached to the workers' cafeteria space, which serves some pretty tasty food. If visiting the factory convinces you to buy some extremely high-quality nail clippers for yourself at the factory shop (like so many members of the Japankuru team), they offer a wide variety in different sizes and metallic finishes. You can bring home some extra high-shine clippers, nail clippers made for babies or pets, kitchen gear, or even some bonsai shears for your house plants.

Suwada Open Factory (諏訪田製作所)
1332 Koanji, Sanjo, Niigata
Official Website (en)

Marunao: Luxury Chopsticks Smoothed to Perfect Points

Similar to Gyokusendo, the history of Marunao has its roots in the construction of Shinto shrines. Founder Naoyoshi Fukuda started his business in 1939 by hand-carving elaborate "pull-along inkpots," which were vital tools in the construction of traditional Japanese buildings. Of course, Marunao has also changed with the times. As traditional construction techniques fell out of common use, the company began to produce a variety of wooden items over the years, before finally finding a niche in the early 2000s, making chopsticks by hand.

Now, Marunao's open factory is sandwiched between a bamboo grove and wide-open fields, and visitors can see huge shipping containers of exotic woods in the parking lot before even going inside. The factory itself is cozy and compact, but the little windowed room that looks in on it is like a mini-museum, with signs all along the wall explaining Marunao's history, their methods, and more. Peeking into the workroom, you can see artisans using high-density wood (like ebony, rosewood, or even "snakewood" from Suriname) and engineered marble, and carefully shaping the rough chunks of material into aesthetically pleasing chopstick shapes, with elegantly pointed tips as thin as 1.5 mm (1/16").
The factory shop next door feels like a luxury boutique, which is only fitting for a high-end manufacturer with a storefront in Paris and a history of partnering with French fashion houses. Marunao is evidently quite popular in the worlds of both haute couture and haute cuisine, and their chopsticks are used at some fairly luxe restaurants around the world, for Japanese food and French food alike. Chat with the staff while you admire the chopsticks and other wooden goods, and you might even hear some rumors of Hollywood's rich and famous dropping in to pick up a pair or two of Marunao's more expensive chopstick sets, which go for upwards of 100,000 yen. Seeing the artisans transform little rods of wood into these beautiful but practical eating utensils, being used around the world, is certainly worth a visit.

Marunao (マルナオ)
1662-1 Yada, Sanjo, Niigata
Official Website (en)

Tojiro: Professional Knives from Traditional Craftsmen and Modern Factories

Tojiro may be the youngest company of these four, but it's no recent addition to the city of Tsubame, either. Tojiro's history reaches back to postwar Japan, when the company actually began by manufacturing machines used in the farming industry. After a couple years of this, Tojiro began to search for products they could make and sell during the cold winter months when demand for farming gear was down, and in the end, they landed on knives. Over the years, as the second generation took over this family business (the third generation now works on the factory floor), Tojiro has become known for making the kind of high-quality kitchen knives favored by professional chefs.

Part of the fun of visiting Tojiro's open factory and touring the different buildings, is that the company makes knives using both traditional techniques and more modern methods. After looking in on one of the large modern factory rooms, where industrial machines help the workers to stamp out knives and sharpen the blades, you can also visit Tojiro's smaller workshop where handcrafted knives are still slowly hammered into shape, heated, and hammered some more.
Looking to bring a new kitchen knife home with you? Unsurprisingly, the staff at the Tojiro factory knife shop are experts in the hundreds of different knives they sell, and they're happy to patiently answer any question you might have about the many blades. Tojiro makes standard Japanese cooking knives and slimmer Western-style chef's knives, but also knives in unusual shapes and sizes you might never have seen before. It's easy to be tempted by the impressively long, rectangular sashimi knives, and some of us on the Japankuru team ended up wavering between the different santoku knife handles for half an hour. Even if you're not planning to make any purchases, it's fascinating just to see everything on offer.

Tojiro (藤次郎)
9-5 Yoshida-Higashisakae, Tsubame, Niigata
Official Website (en)

・Bonus!・ Kamameshi at Shogetsu

Got a new pair of Marunao chopsticks you're dying to try out? Or maybe you're just hungry after a day full of factory tours? We recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Shogetsu, a nearby restaurant specializing in kamameshi (釜飯), a local favorite. Kamameshi is rice cooked in a small metal pot with morsels of meat, vegetables, and simple Japanese flavors like soy sauce or dashi. It all ends up tasting a little reminiscent of fried rice, without all the frying. Shogetsu makes some particularly savory and flavorful kamameshi, and the most popular variety is "gomoku" (五目), which comes mixed with chicken, crab, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. 

Shogetsu (釜飯松月)
227 Sakuramachi, Tsubame, Niigata
Tabelog Page

A Region of Hand-Crafted Traditions

Using centuries-old techniques or modern technology, the artisans and manufacturers of Tsubame-Sanjo are bringing the material culture of Japan to the rest of the world, and by visiting the open factories, you can see it all before your very eyes. Whether you love traditional Japanese culture, artisan crafts, or just exploring brand new parts of Japan's countryside, we recommend you make your way onto the shinkansen, and take a trip to Tsubame-Sanjo!
▲ See the cities brought to life in our Tsubame-Sanjo video!

Tsubamesanjō Station Access
▶ JR EAST Jōetsu Shinkansen Line
・Under 2 hours from Tokyo to Tsubamesanjō Station.
JR EAST Pass (Nagano, Niigata area) Recommended!
・5 days of JR EAST trains, including shinkansen and limited express trains, plus some JR buses for 18,000 yen (tax included).
・Available to foreign travelers and foreign residents.

▶ "About JR EAST"
Official Website (en)
▶ "Seat Reservation Service Online for Shinkansen and Limited Express Train in East Japan Region"
JR EAST Train Reservations (en)

For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don't forget to follow us on twitter, instagram, and facebook!
  • pg slot 2023.12.09 reply
  • pg slot เกมสล็อตสุดมันส์ 2023.12.09 reply
  • pg slot เกมสล็อตสุดมันส์ 2023.12.09 reply
  • I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog! pgslot168 2023.12.08 reply
  • เว็บสล็อต เว็บใหม่แตกง่าย เล่นเว็บตรง ฝาก ถอน ออโต้ ไม่มีขั้นต่ำ ถอนได้ไม่อั้น naga สล็อต 2023.12.07 reply
  • แหล่ง รวมเกมสล็อตแตกง่าย ทุกเกมทุกค่ายค่ายใหม่ อัพเดทเกมให้เล่นก่อนใครแน่นอนค่ายยักษ์ใหญ่ เปิดใหม่มาแรงล่าสุด gladiator slot 2023.12.07 reply
  • สล็อตเว็บใหญ่ที่สุด รูปแบบการเดิมพันสล็อตออนไลน์ เต็มไปด้วยฟีเจอร์โบนัส และสัญลักษณ์ ที่ควรรู้ก่อนลงเดิมพันสล็อต https://www.naga-games.io/ 2023.12.07 reply
  • สนุกกับการเล่นสล็อตมากยิ่งขึ้น ด้วยการเล่นผ่านคอมพิวเตอร์ก็สามารถทำได้ และเว็บสล็อตน่าเล่น tgabet สมัคร 2023.12.07 reply
  • เว็บสล็อตอันดับ1 ที่ดีที่สุด สล็อตแตกง่ายสล็อต น่าเล่น เว็บสล็อตที่ยอดเยี่ยมที่สุดน่าเล่นมากที่สุด รูปแบบเว็บพนันออนไลน์ที่สมบูรณ์แบบ naga games slot 2023.12.07 reply
  • I am exceptionally content with the substance of your article, it is advantageous and I anticipate the following article to refresh the data once more. ufa168 2023.11.29 reply
  • ufabet789 เข้าสู่ระบบ หมดยุคบ่อนบนดิน รวยได้จริงแค่เล่นออนไลน์ 2023.11.28 reply
  • Thanks , I have just been looking for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have came upon till now. ufabet168 2023.11.28 reply
  • สล็อต slot planet เว็บตรงเว็บใหญ่เปิดใหม่ รวมสล็อตออนไลน์ที่ดีที่สุด แตกง่าย สมัครฟรี ฝากถอนไม่มีขั้นต่ำ 2023.11.06 reply
  • เว็บเล่นเกมออนไลน์ของเรา เรียกได้ว่ารวดเร็วทันใจ ไม่มีอารมณ์เสียอย่างแน่นอน https://gd-slot.net สล็อตทดลองเล่น เล่นฟรีไม่มีกั๊ก พร้อมอัพเดทเกมใหม่ล่าสุดรับปี 2023 2023.11.06 reply
  • เพื่อเข้ามาเล่นกับเราได้เลย ฝาก 10 รับ 100 ใหม่ล่าสุด สล็อตเว็บตรง โดยตัวระบบออโต้นั้น ใช้เวลาในการแอดเงินเข้าระบบ ให้ท่านหลังจากโอนเงินโดยใช้เวลาเพียงไม่เกิน 1 นาที 2023.11.06 reply
  • สล็อตออนไลน์ ทำให้คุณสามารถสนุกกับเกมสล็อต ทุกเกมได้แบบไม่มีสะดุด สล็อต red tiger พร้อมทั้งยังสามารถ ที่จะกดเข้ามาเพื่อสมัครสมาชิกกันแบบฟรี หากทดลองเล่นสล็อต แล้วอยากเล่นจริงก็สามารถ สมัครได้เลยแบบง่ายๆ ใช้เวลาไม่เกิน 1 นาทีก็สามารถเติมเงิน ด้วยระบบออโต้ 2023.11.06 reply
  • เล่นเว็บใหญ่ทำให้สามารถนำเกมใหม่มาลงให้คุณ pgslot game ด้เล่นก่อนใคร เพียงแค่คุณคลิกเข้าเว็บเราในหน้า ทดลองเล่นสล็อต ก็สามารถที่จะคลิก เพื่อเล่นเกมได้เลยก่อนใคร ไม่จำเป็นจะต้องสมัครสมาชิก ให้ยุ่งยาก ก็สามารถเข้ามาเล่นสล็อต ได้แบบฟรีๆ พร้อมเครดิตฟรี ให้คุณได้หมุนกันแบบจุใจ และมีแจกใหม่เรื่อยๆ 2023.11.06 reply
  • ทดลองเล่นสล็อต pg ใหม่ ล่าสุด 2023 อัพเดทเกมไวก่อนใครทดลองเล่นสล็อต สล็อตpg 2023 ใหม่ รวดเร็วทันใจ เรียกได้ว่าอัพเดทกันแบบเรียงไทม์ ค่ายเกม ลงเกมหมดปุ๊บ ก็สามารถเข้ามา ทดลองเล่นสล็อต pg ใหม่ กับเราได้ทันที เพราะเราเป็นพาร์ทเนอร์ กับหลายๆค่าย 2023.11.06 reply
  • เว็บสล็อตออนไลน์ อันดับ 1 ทดลองเล่นสล็อตเว็บตรง สล็อตเว็บตรง ไม่ผ่านเอเย่นต์ ศูนย์รวมเกมสล็อตแตกง่าย ได้เงินจริง อัพเดทเกมใหม่ล่าสุด ทุกวัน ให้คุณได้สัมผัสก่อนใคร ทดลองเล่นสล็อตฟรี 24 ชม. 2023.09.30 reply
  • หากคุณกำลังมองหาเว็บไซต์ที่ปลอดภัย ทดลองเล่นสล็อตฟรี เล่นได้เงินจริง ถอนได้จริง เว็บของเราตอบโจทย์ความต้องการในการเล่นมากที่สุด เกมสล็อต ค่าย pg แตกง่าย เกมสล็อตชัวร์100% 2023.09.30 reply
  • ฝาก-ถอนไม่อั้น ไม่มีขั้นต่ำ เล่นได้ จ่ายจริง ปลอดภัย100% เล่นเกม land slot หรือทดลองเล่นสล็อตกับเราได้ฟรี ๆ ไม่ต้องสมัคร ไม่มีค่าใช้จ่าย และไม่ต้องดาวน์โหลด เล่นได้ตลอด 24 ชั่วโมง 2023.09.30 reply
  • pgใหม่ล่าสุด หากคุณเลือกที่จะเป็นส่วนหนึ่งกับเรา จะได้พบกับโปรโมชั่นสุดพิเศษอย่าง โปรสล็อตแจกเครดิตฟรี https://pgslot.team/ทดลองเล่นสล็อต/ เล่นได้ทุกเกม หากชนะเงินถอนได้ทันที 2023.09.30 reply
  • จุดเด่นเกมสล็อต www.pgslot.ink ตัวเกมสล็อตรูปแบบใหม่ที่น่าสนใจอย่างมาก และทำให้สล็อตพีจี กลายเป็นค่ายเกมชั้นนำแนวหน้าของเมืองไทย ที่ใครเป็นนักปั่นสล็อตตัวจริง บอกเลยว่าไม่ควรพลาด 2023.09.30 reply
  • tgabet88 try playing slots Free trial slot games website Including all famous websites Including all new camps Ready to update all the new games every day. Whether it is the latest game of the PG slots camp, the website has gathered all of them here. Let everyone try to experience 3D style slots, play for free, no registration required, apply for membership, play right away, no hassle. 2023.09.10 reply
  • ok slot Many slots fans, easy to break 2023 slots, deposit, withdraw, no minimum, may think that introducing easy to break 2023 slots, slot games are easy to break, difficult to break. Web slots are the easiest to break. depending on each game Web slots often break But in fact, direct web slots do not pass agents, no minimum. 2023.09.10 reply
  • นากาเกม PG SLOT (PG Slots) 3D online video slots games, beautiful graphics, attractive to play, with many games to choose from PGSLOT, the main website that offers PG slots games, the latest in 2023, new open slots websites. Play slot games anywhere through the website. 2023.09.10 reply
  • https://nagagames89.com/ทดลองเล่นสล็อต/ website providing slot games, online slots, online casinos, fish shooting games from all slots camps. New slot games in one website! 2023.09.10 reply
  • เกมนากา Website to try playing slots for every camp for free. No need to apply, no deposit required. All slots players can Free trial of all slot games Update the latest games 2023, try playing slots, PG SLOT and many other camps. There are more than 1,000 games to choose from, open 24 hours a day. 2023.09.10 reply
  • WhatsApp Number Checker Whatsapp Number Filter https://q-sender.pro/ Whatsapp Number Filter WhatsApp Number Checker 2023.08.30 reply
  • I will right away take hold of your rss feed as I can not to find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me know in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks. betflixvip 2023.08.29 reply
  • 168pgslot เว็บสล็อตแตกหนัก รวมเกมมันส์ อัปเดตใหม่ทุกวัน 2023.08.28 reply
  • Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for your provided information. https://mymelee.com/ 2023.08.14 reply
  • Good day very nice website!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds. 메이저사이트 2023.08.14 reply
  • I’m going to bookmark your internet site and keep checking for brand new info. 토토사이트 2023.08.14 reply
  • It truly is major, however it’s significant to assist you to crown towards web page the product weblink: https://meoktwi.com/ 2023.08.14 reply
  • e 2021.04.30 reply
Related Article
Question Forum