Broadcasting system for the Ojiya City Shopping Mall (Honcho, Higashi-dori, Chuo-dori) in Niigata
- Cheerful sounds drift from the arcade, on snowy days and also festive days -
Broadcasting system for the Ojiya City Shopping Mall (Honcho, Higashi-dori, Chuo-dori) in Niigata.
After consecutive 3-day snowfall, Roofs and roads change into a world of white.
Those who have got off at this snowy town are welcomed by the long shopping arcade stretching from the station.
You can always enjoy bright lights and music here.
Even at a snowy night or in a cold snow storm, pedestrians greet each other with a smile on their face.
This is a special place that instantly warms people's heart.
Located in the center of Niigata prefecture along the Shinano River, Ojiya City is famous as a cultural and industrial base with a long history in the region. It is also known for heavy snowfalls. The city's shopping mall arcade, which is of the type commonly seen in many Japanese local cities, is where people gather and interact safely throughout a long snowy winter. Under a gloomy snowy sky, people can shop in a bright and comfortable environment under the shopping mall arcade with soothing background music.
From an old picture, you can see the severity of winter in Ojiya. It shows the following snowy scene: people are carrying their luggage on sleds, traversing snowy roads; the snow is as high as the eaves of the houses
This is a picture of the Ojiya City Shopping Mall in 1963 when a very heavy snowfall hit the town. The eaves that were as high as the snow-piled road served as a covered passageway and this housing structure, unique to the region, is called "Gangi.".
Even when the whole city is covered with snow, the Gangi provides a clear pathway leading to neighboring buildings.
In the snowy regions including Niigata, you can see many Gangi structures with large and extended canopies at the eaves so the ground underneath can be used as a passageway.
In winter, the Gangi passageways are reliable lifelines for the residents of Ojiya. There still remain traditional Gangi-style houses along the old highway, which reminds us of the years gone by.
Now equipment such as snow-melting roads, snow gutters and snowplows are in place, and the center of the city no longer gets buried as seen in the picture. Once you step into the modern shopping mall, which once had the Gangi-style covering, it is easy to forget that it is a region of heavy snows.
At a glance, this arcade looks just like the ones in many towns where people gather, but this one has been designed specifically for such a snowy region. It has a sturdy structure that can sustain 2-meters of accumulated snow and a roof with a snow-melting boiler system. However, the hard image of the equipment is softened by the comforting background music.
Along with over a hundred shops such as supermarkets, banks and electric appliance stores at the shopping mall, your attention may be attracted to hardware stores with colorful snow shoveling tools on display, which are not seen in less snowy regions.
Although the calendar indicates that it is spring, the local people's struggle with snow still continues. Behind the sounds of sales announcements, you can hear the sound of chirpings. An old lady smiles, saying
"Warblers are here,"
which indicates her yearning for the arrival of spring.
Looking towards the sounds of the singing warblers, there is a speaker installed facing the street. This shopping mall is the main stage for the "Ojiya Festival," which is the liveliest among the city's festivals. At the end of summer, a procession of giant lanterns ("Karakuri Manto") parades through the street and the spectators cheer as it passes. The festival is another occasion to show a glorious face of the shopping mall.
People in Ojiya spend their snowy winter with patience, but that is not all they do. This city is a production center for a variety of local products such as the famous Ojiya Chijimi (crepe), which is well known as a fashionable fabric for Kimono's, and colored carps called living gems. Also among many festivals held here are a festival for the world's largest rocket fireworks and a balloon festival where colorful fire balloons float in the snowy fields.
People in Ojiya, who fight against a harsh snowy winter, are also positive in enjoying the scent of spring in the bright shopping mall with the cheerful background music.