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Nature Spots in Niigata Area

  • Kiyotsu Gorge
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Koide
    In 1862, local people built a hot springs bath at Kiyotsu Gorge; in 1941, the Gorge was officially designated a Natural Monument, and in 1949 it was included as part of the newly-established Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park. It is well worth seeing, both for the beauty of the Gorge and for the spectacular columnar joint rock formations. Kiyotsu Gorge is beautiful at any time of year, but visitors should note that the tunnel that gives access to the Gorge is closed between mid-January and late March.
  • Bijin-bayashi Forest
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Matsunoyamamatsuguchi Near the 1712-2
    Bijin-bayashi Forest in Tokamachi, which has a different but equally beautiful appearance in every season of the year, is a forest of beech trees that were planted around 90 years ago, located on hilly ground in Matsuguchi; the elegant form of the beech trees led to the Forest being given the name “Bijin-bayashi” (“Forest of Beauties”). In winter, snowshoes can be rented from the nearby Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science. Bijin-bayashi Forest is located around 15minute bus ride from Matsudai Station on the Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line.
  • Kiyotsu Valley Tunnel
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Koide
    This walking tunnel is in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Tokamachi. It opened as a tourist location in October of 1996 as a place where you can safely see Kiyotsu Gorge, one of Japan's three largest gorges. There are three viewing platforms along the 750-meter long tunnel with a panorama station at the deepest part. Here you can appreciate the country's beautiful natural gorges and columnar jointing topography designated as a National Natural Monument. No matter the season, be it the new sprouting leaves of spring, the verdant greens of summer, the crimson colors of fall, or the fresh snow of winter, lots of tourists come to enjoy the ever-changing beauty of the gorge. The tunnel is closed from mid-January to late March.
  • Mt. Naeba
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Minamiuonumagunyuzawamachi Mikuni
    This volcano stands 2,145 meters tall at the boundary between Niigata and Nagano Prefectures. Located in Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park at its summit is Ime-jinja Shrine which has long drawn those looking to befriend the god of rice cultivation. Near the summit spreads a wetland where you can see all sorts of beautiful alpine plants including the Miyama-bulrush. This beauty has led to the area being selected by the Ministry of the Environment as one of Japan's 500 important wetlands. During the winter the ski-slope at the foot of the mountain draws lots of visitors. Different mountain climbing routes are being developed and between late-June and mid-October lots of mountain climbing visitors flock to the mountain.
  • Hoshitoge terraced rice fields
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Touge
    At Hoshitoge, around 200 tanada (terraced rice fields) of different sizes dot the slopes; the appearance of the landscape changes with the seasons and with the time of day. During the period when the “Sea of Clouds” effect and the “Mizukagami” phenomenon (whereby the surface of the flooded rice fields shines like a mirror) are most common, the Hoshitoge area receives large numbers of tourists from throughout Japan. However, the fields are located on working farms, so visitors are asked to be respectful and considerate. The Hoshitoge terraced rice fields are located around 20-minute walk from Matsudai Station on the Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line.
  • Yajima and Kyojima
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Sadoshi Ogi
    Two islands floating on the south side of Sadogashima Island. They sit in the bay admits the calm waves and can be reached from the mainland via a bridge. The picturesque view of the classical arched red bridge connecting the two islands makes for a beautiful photo. Here you can see people fishing with boxes with glass bottoms from taraibune (tub shaped boats) and you even have the chance to go out in a tub boat yourself. Yajima is also known to produce fine quality bamboo arrow shafts and The Tale of the Heike claims that when Minamoto Yorimasa vanquished the monstrous nue (chimera type creature) he used Yajima arrows. There is also legend that Nichiro, disciple of the monk Nichiren, was shipwrecked and washed ashore on Kyojima Island where he would then spend the night reciting sutra.
  • Lake Hyoko
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Aganoshi Suibara
    Lake Hyoko is located in the Suibara district of Agano City. This was the first lake in Japan where wild swans were successfully fed, and today it is a famous as a spot that swans visit on migration. Lake Hyoko is also a registered Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Importance). The swans arrive each year in early October, and stay until late March; late November is the peak season, when there can be over 5,000 swans on the Lake. Visitors are not allowed to feed the swans, but they can watch the swans from bird observation hides built on the shore of the Lake.
  • Lavender Beach
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Itoigawashi Teraji
    Lavender Beach is part of Omi Coast Geosite, about a 14-minute walk from Itoigawa Station in the city of Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture. The beach gets its name from the lavender-colored jade that can be found there. The open area near the beach contains the statue of Nunakawa-Hime, a ruler in Jomon Period, and the relief that portray the processing steps of jade. Beachcombers can find all kinds of stones other than jade, and it is a great place to find a unique stone for one's self.
  • Hayade River Valley
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Gosenshi Kotsuradani
    This gorge is located in the upper reaches of the Hayadegawa River in Gosen City. Drivers can enjoy great views of its natural splendor as they head towards the Hayadegawa Dam. The dam itself offers sweeping views of the mountains carpeted in fresh greenery or fall foliage depending on the season. Visitors can also enjoy viewing the beautiful scenic sights of the gorge including Koromo Rock, Meoto Falls, Fudo Falls, and more.
  • Mt. Kakuda
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Prefecture Nishi-ku, Niigata City
    This 481.7-meter mountain is located in Nishikan Ward, Niigata City. It has the designated Sado-Yahiko-Yoneyama Quasi-National Park, with abundant nature that allows visitors to observe much of the vegetation that grows naturally in the prefecture, including flowers such as Primula modesta and Asian fawnlily, which bloom in the spring. There are seven maintained mountain trails here, and visitors can see the Sea of Japan and Sado Island from the summit.
  • Mt. Makihata
    Travel / Tourism
    Nigata Pref. Minamiuonumashi Shimizu
    This 1967-meter mountain sits between Minamiuonuma City, Niigata Prefecture and Minakami Town, Tone County, Gunma Prefecture. There is an intermediate-level mountain climbing route with an elevation difference of approximately 1,500 meters, and in addition to the view from the summit of the mountain, visitors can also enjoy wonderful natural sights such as the alpine plants, ponds (marshlands), and the waterfalls and strange rocks of Waribikisawa. It has been selected as one of 100 Famous Japanese Mountains.
  • Arakawa Gorge
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Iwafune-gun Sekikawamura Yusawa
    This gorge lies along the Arakawa River in Bandai-Asahi National Park. It is the best spot in the prefecture for seeing autumn leaves, and it features other attractions, such as popular driving routes and Echigo-Sekikawa Hot Spring Village. It is considered one of the 100 Scenic Spots in Niigata Prefecture, and Takanosu Suspension Bridge, considered one of the 50 selected bridges of Niigata Prefecture, is considered the foremost viewing spot on the river. The autumn leaf season, from late October to early November, is a great favorite of visitors, giving them a view of brocade-like beauty. On National Route 113, the so-called Arakawa Narrows Autumn Leaf Line, drivers can see the natural “art” of the trees, as befits the name of the road.
  • Cape Sekizaki
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Seki
    Also known as Kamuro-no-Taka, this is a rocky cliff over 100 meters tall where the massif of the Osado Mountains drops off into the sea. Looking out over the panorama of the Sea of Japan, one can also see Mt. Onokame in the distance. Walking trails centered on Sado Vacation Village Auto Camp have been laid out, and during the day, visitors can enjoy the Sea of Japan glittering in the sunlight, and at night they can enjoy the sunset and the sight of illuminated fishing boats. Since there is a lighthouse at the end of the walking trail, many people go there to marvel at the scenery.
  • Sabutozaki Point
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Seki
    This is a scenic area north of Zendana Rock, associated with the ninth-century monk Kobo Daishi. Legend has it that in the medieval period, a rockslide from Mt. Chigyo, which looms over the area, buried the beach. Japan has many legends about badgers, and the three most famous ones are Danzaburo-Danuki of Sado, Shibaemon-Danuki of Awaji Island, and Hage-Tanuki of Yashima in Kagawa Prefecture. Over 90 shrines are dedicated to them. Traveling along Prefectural Route 45, one finds a small torii gate, and through that gate is Sabuto Jinja Shrine, which figures in a legend about the badger. On Sado, badgers are depicted and honored as kindly and helpful parent-like figures.
  • Sai no Kawara Grotto
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Negai
    A walking path connects Sado’s wondrous Onokame and Futatsukame rocks. This sea cave, situated along the path, was formed via erosion caused by the waves of the Sea of Japan and is filled with countless stone Jizo statues. Visitors to this sacred area can only hear the sound of wind and waves, and some call the seaside path the boundary with the underworld. The cave has been seen as a sacred place since ancient times and is believed to be a gathering place for the spirits of children who passed away at a young age. During the Sai no Kawara Festival, held once a year, Buddhist mantras are intoned and offerings of food are made with the hungry ghosts and spirits of newborns suffering hunger and thirst, with more than 200 faithful and supporters attending.
  • Nagate Cape
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Tachibana
    This point, located in the central part of the Nanaura Coast, is known as an excellent place to view sunsets or illuminated nighttime fishing. The entirety of this flat rocky area that looks like a raised beach has been designated as Sado-Yahiko-Yoneyama Quasi-National Park. The scattered rock formations and the beautiful and variable seascape are the products of ancient volcanic activity. If one walks along the coast, these eye-catching rocks tell of the history of the area. A lighthouse is located at the tip of the point, and visitors can walk quite close to it. This point is also known for its impressive views of the sun setting into the Sea of Japan.
  • Hiranezaki Marine Potholes
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Tochu
    These rocks are found along the Hiranezaki Coast. Around 80 large and small turtle-shaped pot holes can be seen along a slope of about 500 meters, all of them created and polished by waves. These kinds of pot holes are a common sight along Sado’s coast, but the ones at Hiranezaki are the largest. Fourteen of them are two meters or more in diameter, and some are three meters deep. These pot holes, which are valuable examples of the force of the waves in the Sea of Japan, have been designated a National Monument.
  • Otowa Pond
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Yamada
    Visitors touring Sado’s lakes and reservoirs should not miss this pond. Driving along the Osado Skyline Drive and continuing about 600 meters through a wooded stretch near Odaira Highland, one sees a mystical-looking natural pond. More than 200 species of plants flourish around this pond, and in the middle is Japan’s largest multilayer floating marsh island. It is the only natural pond surrounded by natural growth in the prefecture that has such an island. There is a heart-shaped hole in the island, which is said to be a natural birdbath. The name “Maiden Pond,” comes from a legend about a beautiful maiden who was taken into the water after being seen by the giant snake who was master of the pond.
  • Sado Ogi Coast
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi
    A coastal road runs from Shiroyama in the Ogi District, along the southern end of Sado for approximately 16 kilometers to Kamikoiwa in Sawazaki. The scenery, created by numerous outcroppings and depressions, has been designated a National Monument and Scenic Spot. The coast is dotted with dozens of large and small caves eroded by the sea, the waves, or the wind, so this area is also valuable from an academic, geological point of view. In addition, the pillow lava in the Sawazakihana area is remarkable for its extent and high quality, and it has been noted as a piece of world Geological Heritage. The reef area is also famous for Isonegi Fishing Area, with its “taraibune” (“barrel boats”) available for short excursions.
  • Kasugazaki Point
    Travel / Tourism
    Niigata Sado-shi Aikawa Kabuse
    This point is located about a five-minute drive from the center of Aikawa City, and it affords a view of the sky and the red sun sinking into and briefly coloring the Sea of Japan. The coastal road north of the Nanaura Coast is the finest spot in Niigata Prefecture to view the sunset. Viewing the sunset through the stone lanterns that were supposedly set up during the Edo Period (1615-1867) is an even more splendid experience. Seeing that indescribable sight, visitors can recall the era when Sado Island’s gold mines flourished. Since the point is close to a bus stop and a public toilet, it is a finish to a tour of Sado.

Niigata Areas

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Found along the northwestern coast of Japan, Niigata prefecture is celebrated for its high-quality rice and breathtaking nature, most notably its spectacular mountains, whose white peaks draw in snow sports lovers from far and wide over the winter months. Hit the slopes at Yuzawa, pick out your favourite modern artist at Echigo Tsumari, or take a ferry over to Sado Island for an extra adventure.

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