Niigata Prefecture is the fifth largest prefecture in Japan by geographic area. From the lush greenery of the Echigo Mountains in spring, to the calm waters of the Japan Sea in summer, to skiing and hot springs in winter, all four seasons are excellent times to visit. Depending on the interests and preferences as a traveller, there are plenty of things to choose from.
For example, the fertile terrain of Echigo plain hosts rice paddy fields which allows it to grow excellent quality rice, Uonuma Koshihikari, which has come to be recognized as one of Japan’s top brands. In addition, many seasonal vegetables and fruits are grown in the prefecture. Sake and miso made from this delicious rice are also famous.
In contrast, the Sea of Japan side is a treasure trove of delicious seafood with a variety of seasonal fish and crabs from the Sea of Japan. Besides all the fun activities, taking a leisurely time refreshing in the onsen (hot spring) and enjoying the gourmets from both the mountains and the sea is also recommended. This article will guide you through to help you find the perfect places to visit and do for your next trip to Niigata.
▷【Niigata City Overview】Enjoy the culture and history of Niigata together with Sado Island and Tsukioka Onsen
Niigata City is two hours away from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) on the Joetsu Shinkansen line. In 1858, the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed and in 1869, Japan was reopened to the world after a few hundred years of self imposed isolation. Niigata was designated as one of only five ports at the time to conduct trade with the outside world. Having such a historical background, visitors strolling around the city can find many traces of history from the quasi-Western building designs and the traditional eateries in the entertainment districts. If you are in the center of Niigata City, you can easily get around the area by bus or train. Also, Niigata Airport is only a 30 minute bus ride from Niigata Station which means travellers don't need to waste half a day just by getting into the city. However, getting around the rural areas of the city will require a rental car. Why not enjoy gourmets from local sake to sushi and more.
The symbol of Niigata "Bandai Bridge" and "Shinano River"(Japan's longest river)
【Niigata City】 Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery
A long established sake brewery, Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery founded in 1767 is a walking distance from Niigata Station
Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery
Imayo Tsukasa is definitely at the top list for premium Sake, with a wide variety of different tastes and types made with the combination of traditional and modern techniques. This is a must be visited brewery if you are a fan of sake and also, want to join a free brewery tour that gives fascinating insight into the drink’s history and production. No reservation is necessary for a small group tour however, the tours are subject to change. Check for more information here.READ MORE
- Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery
【Niigata City】 Pier Bandai
Food market located in front of Sado Kisen (Sado Steam Ship) boarding point
Sado Converyar Belt Sushi "Benkei" Pier Bandai branch
Per Bandai is a food market with tons of restaurants featuring local produce and seafood. Out of the many, the conveyor belt sushi, Benkei and a seafood ramen shop, Ramen Shuji is very popular. A hit with locals and visitors alike, be sure to check it out if you love food.READ MORE
- The New Meets the Old in Niigata City
- Best Things to Do
【Niigata City】 Furumachi (Geisha District)
Shopping in the downtown with reminiscences of alleys unique to hanamachi
Furumachi which literally means “Old Town” is the name of the central business district in Niigata and it is actually also regarded as a hanamachi or geisha district. Alongside Gion in Kyoto and Shimbashi in Tokyo, Furumachi in Niigata was ranked as one of Japan’s three main geisha entertainment districts. There are many old traditional Japanese restaurants like Ikinariya and Nabedyaya where there are geigis(in other regions, they are called "geisha") and people still coming and going to spend time with them. Reservation is a must if you would like to spend your time with geigis.
- 日本料理 行形亭
【Niigata City】 Hakusan Shrine
Clear your mind and relax with the beautiful floating lotus
The garden's seasonal beauty with floating lotus at Hakusan Park
A 15-minute bus ride from Niigata station, Hakusan Shrine is a large shrine complex in the center of Niigata City with over 1,000 years of history neighboring Hakusan Park, a Dutch-style promenade garden. The Air Gardens, located between the Hakusan Park and the Ryutopia (Niigata City Performing Arts Center), is a popular spot to take a visit while strolling around this complex.
【Niigata City】 Niigata City Aquarium Marinepia Nihonkai
An aquarium recommended for families to see dancing dolphins and other sea animals
Niigata City Aquarium Marinepia Nihonkai
Niigata City Aquarium Marinepia Nihonkai, more familiarly known as Marinepia Nihonkai is an aquarium 20 minute bus ride away from Niigata station. Home to 600 varieties 30,000specimens of sea animals, this popular aquarium is one of the most prominent aquariums on the Sea of Japan. Its dolphin show is one of a kind to experience as only the selected guest can touch the dolphins. Since the aquarium is located by the sea, it is also recommended to go for a walk along the coast too.
- Niigata City Aquarium Marinepia Nihonkai (Sea of Japan)
- Nigata Pref. Nigatashi Chuou-ku Nishifunamichou 5932-445
- 9:00-17:00(Last entry16:30)
【Niigata City】 Northern Culture Museum
Breathtaking in any seasons, Northern Culture Museum is a great spot to see classic Japanese architecture and enjoy views of a traditional garden
Beautiful autumn foliage seen at the museum
The Northern Culture Museum is just a 10 minute taxi ride from JR Niitsu station with full to the brim of Niigata from its architecture and gardens to its collection of art. This museum was once a home to the Ito family who were the lord of vast areas of land in Echigo. It took eight years to build the main Japanese style residence, which covers an area of 8,800 tsubo(Japanese units of measurement).
- Niigata City Aquarium Marinepia Nihonkai (Sea of Japan)
- Nigata Pref. Nigatashi Chuou-ku Nishifunamichou 5932-445
- 9:00-17:00(Last entry16:30)
【Niigata City】 Yahiko Shrine and Iwamuro Onsen
Undeniable scenic drive to Yahiko Shrine and to Iwamuro Onsen
To access the areas around Yahiko Shrine, renting a car is highly recommended. A scenic drive to the top of the mountain on the Mt. Yahiko Skyline with a view of the Sea of Japan below is breathtaking. Yahiko Shrine, located in Mt. Yahiko, is a very old shrine which is said to have been built more than 1,300 years ago. It enshrines the god "Amano kagoyama no mikoto," who is said to have taught the people of Echigo the technique of rice farming, and created the country of Echigo. It is also said that coming to this shrine improves one's fortune for business and love. A signature autumn event of Yahiko, the Chrysanthemum Festival featuring a flowerbed in which 30,000 chrysanthemums create a large-scale Japanese landscape is a must not be missed event.
Iwamuro Onsen (hot spring)
If you plan to look for a place to stay near Yahiko Shrine, then Iwamuro Onsen (hot spring), a quiet retreat from Niigata City and a hot spring area with more than 300 years of history is the perfect location for you. Their high quality water has long been popular among hot spring fans. Check out Iwamuro Hot Spring Tourism Association to find hotels, inns and more information about the area.
【Niigata City】 Cave D'Occi Winery
A wine resort that focuses on "food", "beauty" and "health" for a full day of enjoyment
Garden restaurant at Cave D'Occi
The Cave D’Occi Winery is a wine resort with bakery, restaurants and accommodation situated just 1km inland from the Sea of Japan, facing directly the expanse of Mt. Kakuda. Not in Niigata but, inside the State Guest House Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, a place where kings and presidents from around the world are welcomed when visiting Japan, Cave D’Occi manages a cafe there too. Because the resort offers a free shuttle bus from Niigata station, even if you drink alcohol, there is no need to worry about driving back, rather, no need to worry about bringing your car.
【Niigata City Seasonal Recommendation】Beach(End of July to mid August)
Niigata City has several beaches along the coast that are open for swimming. Many locals enjoy summer leisure activities at these beaches, which are equipped with beach houses, wave breaker blocks and have good water quality.
West Coast of Niigata Prefecture
【Niigata City Seasonal Recommendation】Niigata Festival (Friday, Saturday and Sunday in early August)
Niigata Festival is a major festival that originated in 1955. This 3-day event begins with “Dai-Minyo-Nagashi” (Great Dance Festival) with a parade of yukata-clad folk dancing teams. On the second day, more parades—with participants dressed in traditional attires with the bearing of mikoshi (portable shrines). The festival concludes with a large fireworks display over the Shinanogawa River. Depending on the year, this festival runs concurrently with the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival.
“Dai-Minyo-Nagashi” (Great Dance Festival) from Niigata Festival
【Niigata City Seasonal Recommendation】Wara Art Festival (Late August to End of October)
The annual Wara (rice straw) Art Festival, held at Uwasekigata Park, was created in 2008 when the farmers engaged Tokyo's Musashino Art University to make giant art out of the excess rice straws. During the festival, there are many giant rice straw sculptures in the shape of animals, dinosaurs and etc. The park is located about 40 minutes drive by car from Niigata Station.
Wara Art Festival
【Niigata City Seasonal Recommendation】Autumn foliage at Yahiko Park (Late October to mid November)
From late October to mid-November, the park is lit up at night to create a fantastic scene during autumn foliage.
"Momijidani"(Maple Valley) inside the Yahiko Park lit up during the autumn foliage
▷【Sado Overview】The historical sites of Kinzan (golde) mine, marine activities and drive along the coast are recommended.
To get to Sado Island, first, take a 15-minute bus ride from Niigata Station to Sado Kisen Niigata Port to get on board the ferry. From there, it takes 70 minutes to get to Ryotsu Port on Sado Island by high-speed jetfoil or 2 hours and 30 minutes by car ferry.
Alternatively, a ferry from Naoetsu Port is available to go over to Sado Island, however, the landing port will be Ogi port, instead of Ryotsu Port.
Sado Island is the second largest of Japan's islands, and is about 1.5 times the size of Tokyo's 23 wards. For this reason, renting a car is the best way to get around the island. The best time to visit is in summer. There are many places to enjoy scenic drive and swimming in the clear waters of the island. There are also many historical sites that bear traces of the prosperity of the Sado gold mine(Kinzan), so you'll want to spend at least two nights on the island. The island's gourmet delicacies include sushi, squid and other fresh seafood from the surrounding sea.
Sado's famous Tarai Bune (tub boat)
【Aikawa】 Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
Be an explorer to enjoy the history of the Sado Gold Mine
Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
Sado Kinzan Gold Mine is Japan's largest gold mine and was in operation during the Edo period from 1601, when gold was first discovered for 388 years until 1989, when mining operations ceased at the site. Today, there are three walking courses that allow visitors to enjoy learning the history of the mine. The "Sodayu Tunnel course" is a popular course where you can see a realistic reproduction of the mining operation in the past. It takes about 40 minutes from Ryotsu Port by car.READ MORE
- Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
- Historical Landscapes
【Aikawa】 Kitazawa Flotation Plant
Spectacular lit up of Kitazawa Flotation Plant to color the nightlife of Sado Island
Kitazawa Flotation Plant
Looking like a Ghibli scene in real life, the Kitazawa floatation plant was built during the first half of the 1900’s and was once the biggest producer of ore in East Asia. During some special seasons, the flotation plant will be lit up in the evening creating an impressive view to the visitors.READ MORE
- Kitazawa Flotation Plant
- Historical Landscapes
【Aikawa】 Aikawa Detention House
Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties that can be visited for free
Aikawa Detention House
Aikawa Detention House was actually used as a detention center for a short period of 18 years, from 1954 to 1972. Rare to find such wooden detention houses in Japan, this Japan’s Tangible Cultural Property is open to the public for free. Its ivy covered tall white walls and the cells inside are one of a kind to experience.READ MORE
- The Dark History of Sadoshima
- Historical Landscapes
【Ogi】 Yajima and Kyojima (picturesque islands)
Must not be missed "Tarai bune" (tub boat) and scenic spot
Yajima and Kyojima Island's "tarai bune" (tub boat)
The red bridge over the sea gives a great contrast to this scenic spot where visitors can experience an especially unique feature of Sado Island, the “Tarai-Bune” (tub boat). These are boats with a somewhat atypical form and the lady will row them with a single paddle for it to float around in the translucent, turquoise water of Ogi creek.READ MORE
- Sado - Inland Adventures of an Exile Culture
【Ogi】 Shukunegi Village
A photo opportunity at the southern tip of Sado Island in the maze-like area designated as a National Important Preservation Area for Traditional Buildings and Architecture
The 106 or so houses crowded into the narrow alley are from the port town of Shukunegi, which prospered as a port of call for Kitamae ships. The buildings built by the shipbuilders in those days have been densely packed together to create a unique landscape. There is a Sado Kokoku Ogi Folk Museum nearby exhibiting 30,000 items, all of which are priceless pieces of the history of the Sado region including true to size Sengoku-bune (cargo ship).READ MORE
- Best Places to Go in Sado Island
- Best Things to Do
- Sado Island’s Ogi Folk Museum, Sengokubune Exhibition Hall
- Nigata Pref. Sadoshi Shukunegi 270-2
【Sawada】 Diving Service Freeway
Diving with Asian sheepshead wrasse in Sado Island
Diving Service Freeway
Diving Service Freeway offers a diving service in the beautiful sea on Sado Island year round. The best part of diving in here is visitors get to swim with the Asian sheepshead wrasse. Its one of a kind experience to meet them.
【Mano Town】 bakery&café shimafumi and Guest Villa on the bi-ichi
Dine and sleep in the fancy district of Sado Island
Guest Villa on the bi-ichi
Unlike other inns in Sado where it's mostly Japanese style, the Guest Villa on the bi-ichi is a western style guest house with shared lounge, kitchen and a shower room. They also have an Italian restaurant, Seisuke next door on the 1st floor offering Italian gourmets made by chef Ozaki who had his training in a three-star restaurant in France.
Using homemade yeast bakery&café shimafumi bakes delicious pastries in a cafe with an open terrace overlooking Mano Bay.
▷【Nagaoka and Sanjo City Overview】Visit a blacksmith workshop, famous for its fireworks display
Nagaoka and Tsubame-sanjo stations are on the last stops of Joetsu Shinkansen Line right before reaching the Niigata station. Nagaoka is famous for having one of the largest firework festivals in Japan. One of its highlights is the “Sanjaku-dama” firework which are 90 centimeters in diameter and weigh around 300 kilograms launched over 600 meters into the sky and explode to large blossoms reaching 650 meters in diameter. Visitors should film this amazing moment.
On the other, Tsubame-sanjo is a production district of traditional hand tools representative of Japan. The place is not only prominent in Japan but also a world-renowned center of excellence in the production of tools, knives and other forged products, which began in 1625. The metalworking skills of craftsmen here are one of the most admired in the world that even Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple Inc., had also sought for. Including numerous award-winning knives of Tadafusa and Suwada nail clippers, there are many famous blacksmith workshops in the area.
Aside from the craftsmanship, such gourmet like Nagaoka Ramen, a unique soy sauce-based soup with a ginger flavor, and Tsubame-Sanjo Back Fat Ramen, which has extra thick noodles and thick back fat are something to look forward to when visiting the area.
Tsubame-Sanjo Back Fat Ramen at Koshuhanten
【Sanjo City】 Snow Peak Headquarters Camp Field
An innovator of outdoor apparel and gear, Snowpeak's headquarter is in Sanjo City
Snow Peak Headquarters Camp Field
The Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak is popular for its high-quality, versatile and stylish designs. Its headquarters and official camping grounds are located in a field of about 50,000 square meters in Sanjo. In addition to regular day camping and overnight stays, there are a variety of programs available for beginners and also, visitors can rent gears on spot too. Since their official shop is next door neighbor to the headquarter, it's worth a visit to look for some outdoor gear here.
【Sanjo City】 Sanjo Kaji Dojo
Hands on blacksmith experience at Sanjo Kaji Dojo
Sanjo Kaji Dojo
Sanjo-Tsubame, a city in northern Niigata Prefecture, is famous for the manufacturing of traditional Japanese nails, knives and tableware. In such leading metalwork regions in Japan, at Sanjo Kaji Dojo, visitors can join workshops ranging Japanese nail, letter opener, to proper kitchen knife. Most visitors who come to the Dojo have never made a knife before, but the blacksmiths there would be more than happy to assist you. The workshops are provided only in Japanese, but the interaction with blacksmiths through gestures and smiles will make the experience very heart-warming. Sanjo Kaji Dojo can be accessed by car and it's about a 10minute drive from JR Tsubame Sanjo station.
【Sanjo City】 SUWADA OPEN FACTORY
Behold the craftsmanship and get a nail clipper that will last a lifetime
SUWADA OPEN FACTORY
The Suwada nail clippers hand made by the craftsmen at Suwada Open Factory are a masterpiece that gained high reputation worldwide. Visitors can observe the craftsmanship of these nail clippers at the factory during business hours between Tuesday through Saturday. Inside the black-tinted building, visitors can learn about the history and description of Suwada nail clippers, and can purchase it too.READ MORE
- Suwada Clippers
- Traditional Crafts
【Sanjo City】SANJO SPICE LAB
The nostalgic atmosphere emerged through the space covered by the low eave with engawa for seating awaits people seeking a tasty dish and meeting with people.
Sanjo Spice Lab
The essence of spice is a "mixture of cultures," and the concept of the creators of Sanjo Spice Lab is to reorganize the local food culture and lifestyle by mixing them together. The "Turley Set" curry, made by combining Sanjo-made turmeric with seasonal and local vegetables are highly recommended. It is offered for 1,320 yen. Eat and feel the wisdom of life passed down in Sanjo in the mountains.
【Nagaoka City】 Echigo Hillside National Government Park
Huge park where children can play all day long
Echigo Hillside National Government Park
Echigo Hillside National Government Park is a national park with an area of about 400 hectares spread out in the hills of Nagaoka. There is a large fluffy dome, a full-scale aerial adventure park, and a large water playground in the summer. Children will be very happy to run around in the vast land of Niigata.
【Nagaoka City】Niigata Prefectural Museum of History
A museum with beautiful displays of flame-shaped pottery is gaining popularity due to its high level of artistry
Niigata Prefectural Museum of History
These highly artistic flame-shaped earthenware vessels which look like they represent flames of fire, were first excavated from the Umataka site in Nagaoka City in the Jomon Period 5,300 years ago. The pottery found in Niigata is unlike anything else found in the rest of the country from this period, and the flame-style pots have been designated as a national treasure. The very first flame-shaped pot found is on display too in the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History .
【Nagaoka City】 Teradomari Fish Market Street (Sakana no Ameyoko)
Heaven of fresh seafood to eat at the fish market
Teradomar Fish Market Street (Sakana no Ameyoko)
Teradomari Fish Market Street, commonly known as “Sakanano Ameyoko” is a street lined with fresh seafoods and souvenirs along the national road along the Sea of Japan. The specialties of this street are snow crabs and frozen fish. On the second floor, there are often restaurants, where visitors can enjoy "crab ramen", a ramen with a whole crab on top of a bowl of ramen.
＜Nagaoka City Seasonal Recommendation＞Nagaoka Firework Festival (August 2nd/3rd)
Nagaoka Firework Festival have been around for more than 100 years and are one of the three most famous fireworks in Japan. The fireworks, which are shot up from the banks of the Shinano River are dynamic and unobstructed. The climax of the festival is the "Phoenix" fireworks to pray for recovery from the great Chuetsu earthquake, floods and heavy snowfall that hit Niigata in 2005.
Nagaoka Firework Festival
＜Sanjo Seasonal Recommendation＞Tsubame-Sanjo Factory Festival (Early October)
The Tsubame Sanjo area is home to the largest number of factory owners in Japan, and those factories produce items including knives, tableware and more. Many of the factories are small family run establishments which usually have their doors closed to outside visitors. However, during the Tsubame Sanjo Factory Festival usually held in early October, this situation changes. Many of these factories open up to the public for visitors to get hands-on workshops and even be able to purchase precious items that are rare and hard to find anywhere else.
Tsubame Sanjo Factory Festival
▷【Murakami & Shibata City Overview】 Enjoy historical townscape, local cuisine, sake and onsen (hot spring)
Murakami city is a castle town located in the northern tip of Niigata prefecture. It is popularly known as a salmon town, due to its proximity to the Miomote River. Visitors will often see pictures of salmon hung up to air dry everywhere when they take a stroll around the city. Reason behind such a unique townscape came from as far back as the samurai era when the only method to preserve the salmon was to soak it in salt after being gutted, then dry it since there were no electric refrigerators back then. These salmon delicacies are known as “shiohiki-sake” (literally translated as salted salmon). That tradition still exists and continues to create such a “salmon town”. Among the many salmon specialty stores, Sennen Sake Kikkawa is a long-standing shop famous for its salt-cured salmon and other salmon products. The highlight of the 130-year-old merchant building listed on the Registered Tangible Cultural Properties is the 1,000 salted salmon hanging from the ceiling.
Located in Shibata City, about an hour drive from Murakami City, there is a Tsukioka Onsen (hot spring) known as a “spring of eternal youth”. It is said to have the highest concentration of sulfur in Japan. Slightly alkaline, the onsen is gentle on the skin and the sulfur in the water turns it a rare and beautiful emerald green. The famous onsen ryokan inn, “Shiratama no Yu Kahou” and the onsen town awaits the visitors. It is about a 20minute train ride from Niigata station via the Limited Express Train Inaho .
Salmon delicacies known as “shiohiki-sake” (literally translated as salted salmon).
【Murakami City】 Black Fence Street
Exotic atmosphere and history on Black Fence Street
Black Fence Street
A 20-minute walk from JR Murakami Station brings the visitors to “jokamachi” or castle town which refers to a type of city that developed around the feudal lord’s castle in the past. There are historic shops that are still in business and an area where temples and traditional restaurants sit alongside each other. Of all, visitors should not miss the 460m street lined with nostalgic black fences known as Black Fence Street (Kurobei-dori). Travel through nostalgic ambience to immerse yourself in the city’s glorious past.
【Murakami City】 Sennen Sake Kikkawa
See the unique hanging salmon in the old merchant building listed on the Registered Tangible Cultural Properties
Sennen Sake Kikkawa
Sennen Sake Kikkawa is a long-standing shop famous for its salt-cured salmon and other salmon products without any additives. The highlight of the 130-year-old merchant building is the 1,000 salted salmon hanging from the ceiling.
Senne Sake Izutsuya
After shopping, head over to Sennen Sake Kikkawa’s restaurant, Izutsuya for a variety of salmon dishes. Booking is highly recommended.READ MORE
- Where to Go in Murakami
- Historical Landscapes
【Murakami City】 Boat ride on Sasagawa Nagare Coastline
Swimming in the clear water and an extraordinary experience feeding the seagull on the boat
Boat ride on Sasagawa Nagare Coastline
Sasagawa Nagare is an 11-kilometer stretch of coastline near the city of Murakami, with beautifully contrasting clear blue water and white sandy beaches. The area is designated as a national scenic beauty and Natural Monument. During summer, many visit to enjoy swimming. If you are looking for some extraordinary experience, then, the 40 minute ride on a boat to enjoy the wonderful views of Sasagawa Nagare from the water is a must as the tour comes with the feeding of the seagulls. The sunset cruise is also popular and the views are stunning.
【Murakami City】 Senami Onsen 「Senami Grand Hotel Haginoya」
Beautiful onsen and sunset by the Sea of Japan
Senami Onsen (hot spring)
Senami Onsen is a famous hot spring resort just 10 minutes by car from Murakami Station. There are a wide range of options, including accommodation facilities, but also day entry hot spring baths, and also foot baths. Of all, Senami Grand Hotel Haginoya is recommended as it have a private open-air bath in many of their rooms and visitors can enjoy lava-rock-grilled Murakami beef, carefully raised in Murakami, for dinner. The sound of the waves on the Sea of Japan is calming and soothing and will be a great way to end your day.
【Shibata City】 Ichishima Shuzo Sake Brewery
Visit the sake brewery with over 200 years of history
Ichishima Shuzo Sake Brewery
Located in the rice-growing region of Shibata, the 200-year-old Ichishima Sake Brewery offers tours of its brewery without reservation. Only a few minutes walk from JR Shibata station, the brewery is not just a great place to learn about the brewing industry that has sustained Niigata for centuries but also enjoy lunch gazing at the beautiful garden in Garden Cafe Ichishima.READ MORE
- Six Generations of Excellence and Innovation: a Visit to Ichishima Shuzo Sake Brewery
【Shibata City】 Tsukioka Onsen (hot spring)
Relax in the emerald green water in an onsen (hot spring) resort in Niigata
Premium Sake KURA Shop
Tsukioka Onsen is located in Niigata and will require two train rides plus a bus ride to reach its resort. From Tokyo to Niigata station is about 2hours on shinkansen (bullet train). Then from there, visitors will need to change trains to head over to Toyosaka Station which is about a 20 minute ride from Niigata station. Then from Toyosaka Station, visitors will require an additional 300yen bus ride to finally reach the onsen resort. The onsen resort of Tsukioka Onsen is famous for its emerald green water from having the highest sulfur concentration of all hot springs in Japan. The resort town has various shops from where you can try sake and wines made in Niigata to restaurants with great food made using local materials to a foot bath area and many ryokan inns including Shiratama no yu: Kahou, one of the most popular ryokan inn.
▷【Agano & Gosen City Overview】Be like a local in the quiet district
Agano is situated in the east of Niigata Prefecture and can reach the town center in about 35 minutes via the Banetsu Expressway, or about 60 minutes on National Route 49 driving east from Niigata City. In summer, visitors can enjoy going down the majestic Agano River which flows down the center of the town to go fishing, and playing in the river at campsites scattered along its tributaries. In winter, seeing the migrated swans at Lake Hyoko are popular among birdwatchers.
Just about 10minute away from the lake, there is a hot spring village known as Gozu Onsenkyo. The resort has three hot springs; Deyu, Imaita and Sugimura, with several traditional Japanese inns, and few outdoor baths for guests to enjoy.
Kitsune no Yomeiri Yashiki (Fox Bride's Procession)
【Agano City】 THE GARDEN HOUSE IKARASHI
Enjoy a local beer at THE GARDEN HOUSE IKARASHI with a feel of the Meiji and Taisho era
The Garden House Ikarashi was the residence of the head of the Ikarashi family, who was a wealthy farmer and a businessman. The mansion was built between Meiji and Taisho era on a vast estate of about 16,500 m² and is emblematic of the prosperity of the wealthy farmer back then. To accommodate a restaurant and a wedding hall, the interior has been renovated however, the exterior has been retained to keep its retro and elegant style. Swan Lake Beer that is served here has won an award and is made with the finest water from Echigo. It's a must be tried beer.
- 五十嵐邸ガーデン 新潟阿賀野リゾート
【Agano City】 Agano River Sightseeing Boat
The majestic Agano River and a sightseeing boat to admire the beauty of the region
Agano River Sightseeing Boat
The Agano River Sightseeing Boat departs every hour between 9:00 am and 15:00pm and takes the visitors down the river from the roadside station Agano-Sato.The view along the river is one of the 100 most famous in Japan and this sightseeing boat will take about 40minutes. The fee is 2,000yen for adults and 1,000yen for children. Because the beauty of the region changes from season to season, its hard to find when is the best time to join the tour. However, the winter season going down the river looking over a snowy mountain might be worth a go as it gives a different beauty that can not be experienced elsewhere.
【Agano City】 Gozu Onsenkyo (hot spring village)
Spend a relaxing time in a highly effective natural radium onsen (hot spring)
Gozu Onsenkyo (hot spring village)
Gozu Onsenkyo (hot spring village) is located 40 minutes by car from Niigata City, at the foot of Mt. Gozu. With an 800 year history, the village is made up of three onsen (hot springs); Imaita, Deyu and Murasugi. In addition to hot spring lodges, there are also outdoor hot springs where visitors can take a day trip there.
Legend says the origin of this hot spring was Koubou Daishi's discovery of the source about 1,200years ago when the spring sprang out here by itself when he founded a temple on Mt. Gozu.
(Koubou Daishi is an influential Heian Period monk who founded the Shingon (True Word) sect of Japanese Buddhism with its main center at Koyasan)
Tsugawa Kitsune no Yomeiri Gyoretsu (Fox Bride's Procession) is a festival where it takes place on May 3rd every year to celebrate for good harvest to come for the following year. There are many stories relating to foxes however, it is believed that there were foxes living on Mt. Kirinzan and people heard their voices and saw their fire almost every night. Tsugawa’s fox fire is the biggest in the world and there are many stories about the fox fire on Mt. Kirinzan. For example, it is said there are two phenomena for such fire, the bizarre weather called sunshowers where rain falls in broad daylight or the procession of foxfire, called kitsune-bi (狐火), winding through the mountains late at night. Either the cases, because the weddings took late in the evening back in old days, the lantern light and these “fox fires” looked similar and therefore, such idea of “Kitsune no Yomeiri” was born. During the festival, to imitate such an old tradition, there is a parade with a bride and groom wearing fox makeup walking down the street.
Kitsune no Yomeiri
＜Agano & Gosen City Seasonal Recommendation＞Echigo Sekikawa Great Serpent Festival (August)
Echigo Sekikawa Great Serpent Festival usually held in August is an unique local festival in which a 80-meter-long, gigantic bamboo straw serpent weighing over 2,000 are carried through the town. Annually held in Sekikawa, a village in the northern part of Niigata Prefecture since 1988, these Guiness World Record serpents which weigh about 2tons are being carried by more than 5,000people during the festival.
Echigo Sekikawa Great Serpent Festival
＜Agano & Gosen City Seasonal Recommendation＞Lake Hyoko with migrated swans (October to March)
To spend the winter, a flock of swans from Siberia rest over the frozen Lake Hyoko. There are over 5,000 swans seen during November. The lake is about a three hour trip from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) and a local train. During the colder seasons, visitors can witness the swans taking off from the white, snow-covered land.
▷【Yuzawa, Uonuma, & Tokamachi Overview】 80 minutes from Tokyo! A resort in Niigata to enjoy skiing, art and music festivals
The snow resort of Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is famous for its ski resort, GARA Yuzawa, which is an hour from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) and has direct access to the slopes. In summer, Japan's largest rock festival, "Fuji Rock", is held at the deep green Naeba ski area as a stage and camping ground.
The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, one of the world's largest art festivals is held every three years in Tokamachi and offers visitors a chance to see permanent artworks even when the festival is not in session. Artworks that suddenly appear in the surrounding countryside are like a treasure hunt, entertaining both children and adults of all ages. Also, the area is home to the world-famous Minami Uonuma Koshihikari rice brand.
If you're going to travel around here, bringing a car is a must.
清津峡 ―Tunnel of Light, Ma Yansong
【Tokamachi City】 Kiotsukyo Gorge
The sight from the viewing platform at the end of the tunnel is truly insta-worthy.
清津峡 ―Tunnel of Light, Ma Yansong
Kiyotsukyo, one of the three major gorges in Japan due to its sheer rocky surface, was redesigned by Chinese architecture firm MAD Architects during the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The photo spot where you can see the last Kiyotsukyo from inside the beautifully lit tunnel is truly a spectacular moment to catch.READ MORE
- A Journey into Nature with the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
- Outdoor Activities
【Tokamachi City】 Hoshitoge Rice Terraces
Rice terraces with spectacular views attracting many photographers who wish to capture their beauty
Hoshitoge Rice Terraces
Consisting of 200 rice fields that vary in size, the scenic spot extends throughout a sloping hill. Especially popular among photographers, the “water mirrors” formed when light shines on the water in rice fields between May to June are a beauty to capture at least once in a life. If the weather and condition are perfect, these are combined with a sea of clouds to make the rice terraces even more stunning. From JR Matsudai Station, it is about a 20 minutes drive.
【Tokamachi City】 Noh Butai Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center
Many to experience from fun artworks both in and outside to beautiful restaurant
Restaurant at Noh Butai Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center －Jean-Luc Vilmouth
The art exhibited at Noh Butai Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center is known for its uniqueness and cuteness in collaboration with the Matsudai Station on the Hokuhoku Line. Several dozen artworks located around the base of the center and along the nearby hillside are very popular, often being posted on social media. An outdoor sculpture by Yayoi Kusama also adds uniqueness to the festivities. At the restaurant, visitors can enjoy a lunch that makes use of local materials.
- NOU BUTAI (Agrarian Stage) Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center, Matsudai
- Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Matsudai 3743-1
- 10:00-17:00(Latest entry16:3…
【Tokamachi City】 Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, Kinare
A museum to enjoy contemporary art
Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, Kinare
Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, Kinare is a museum which was designed by Hara Koji, the leading Japanese architect who designed Kyoto Station and the Umeda Sky Building. The wide variety of contemporary artworks is appealing, but the symmetrical architectural beauty of the central pond and the surrounding corridor is also highly recommended. The museum is also home to the Akashi no Yu day spa.READ MORE
- The World Is a Museum at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
- Art & Museums
- Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE
- Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Honchou 6-71-2
- 10:00-17:00 (The period of t…
【Tokamachi City】 Echigo Matsunoyama Kyororo Forest School
A space where visitors can interact with living things and perfect place to go for children who love insects and animals
Echigo Matsunoyama Kyororo Forest School
Echigo Matsunoyama Kyororo Forest School is an ecomuseum with formal exhibition inside the main building but with a focus on outdoor, ‘hands-on’ learning. If there is any availability on the program on the day of the visit, visitors can participate too. The museum is located in the beautiful countryside of Matsunoyama, around an hour drive from Echigo Yuzawa Station. More simply known as ‘Kyororo’, the facility promotes the harmonious coexistence of people and nature under the broad banner of ‘satoyama’. It may be a bit shocking and disturbing to some, but visitors will get a chance to see a snake swallowing a live mouse...
- Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science “Mori no Gakko” Kyororo
- Nigata Pref. Tokamachishi Matsunoyamamatsuguchi 1712-2
- 9:00-17:00(Latest entry16:30…
【Tokamachi City】 Beauty Forest
Healing in a forest of beech trees
Bijinbayashi (Beauty Forest)
Translated as both "Beauty Forest" or "Forest of Beautiful Women", Bijinbayashi is a small yet picturesque forest of 90-year old beech trees in the Matsunoyama area of Niigata, located a short walk from Echigo Matsunoyama Kyororo Forest School. Open to the public all year round, the forest can be enjoyed in any seasons as the forest changes colour and appearances from the lush green of spring and summer, to the mosaic of red, amber and yellow in autumn, and finally the deep snow of winter.
【Tokamachi City】 Matsudai Shibatoge Hot Spring "Unkai"
The view of the sea of clouds from the outdoor bath is amazing
Matsudai Shibatoge Hot Spring "Unkai"
Matsudai Shiba-Toge Onsen Unkai, located in the mountains about 7 minutes by car from Matsudai Station, is a popular lodging facility for its "sea of clouds" view from their hot spring. The rate of occurrence of the sea of clouds is high in September and October. There is also a cottage type house to rent nearby, so it's a great place to stay with a group during the Art Triennial.
【Minami-Uonuma City】 Satoyama Jujo
An artistic inn representing Niigata with rich food and a superb view of hot springs
Satoyama Jujo was started by a creative company that produces a lifestyle magazine called "Jiyu-jin" as one of the interactive media that proposes and transmits a "truly affluent life". It is a place that stimulates the five senses of visitors, with local cuisine made from organic ingredients and an artistic space in a 150-year-old private house that was renovated in collaboration with art students, all in the midst of nature.READ MORE
- Satoyama Jujo Redefines Luxury in a Japanese Context
【Uonuma City】 Sekijosan Saifukuji Temple
A temple with an artwork by the Japanese Michelangelo, Uncho Ishikawa
Sekijosan Saifukuji Temple
The famous sculptor Uncho Ishikawa is well known to those in the know, who has been working in Niigata since the end of the Edo period. Uncho's masterpiece "Dogen zenji mokotobuku" is preserved at Sekijosan Saifukuji Temple. His dynamic sculptures and the use of colorful colors on the surface make it easy to understand why he is called the Michelangelo of Japan. The numerous sculptures around the temple are also overwhelming. Saifuku-ji Temple and nearby Eirin-ji Temple are two of the most famous temples in Japan with sculptures by Unchou. Sekijosan Saifukuji Temple is a 10-minute taxi ride from Urasa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line.READ MORE
- Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo
【Yuzawa Town】 GALA Yuzawa
A ski resort directly connected to the station
During the ski season, the shinkansen (bullet train) stops at GALA Yuzawa Station, and visitors can be on the ski slopes of Gala Yuzawa in just 80 minutes or so from Tokyo. Gear rentals are available and also, there is a onsen (hot spring) too.READ MORE
- Ski Near Tokyo: How to Get Ski Resorts by Train
【Yuzawa Town】 Ponshu Sake Museum
A museum for sake lovers located inside the Echigo-Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line
Ponshu Sake Museum
Ponshu Sake Museum is located inside the Echigo Yuzawa Station on a Joetsu Shinkansen station where ski resorts like Gala Yuzawa can be directly accessed. Because Niigata produces the finest rice, there are a large number of sake breweries in this region. At the museum, visitors can drink and compare 5 cups of representative brands of sake for 500 yen. Because there are over 150 different kinds of sake at the museum, it's so hard for sake lovers to leave.
【Yuzawa Town】 Uonuma no Sato
A complex of alcoholic beverages and gourmet food that combines the wisdom of the snow country
Uonuma no Sato
About 15 minutes by taxi from JR Urasa Station, Uonuma no Sato is located at the foot of Mt. Hakkai, a popular brand of Japanese sake. This is a place to showcase for all things from sake, “Hakkaisan Yukimuro” to local beer brewed using Minami Uonuma’s famous water, "Raiden-sama's Shimizu", and gourmet using fermented foods and many others local items.
【Ojiya City】 Nishikigoi no Sato
The only place in the world where visitors can see "living jewels" of Nishikigoi carp
Nishiki Goi no Sato
Ojiya City (Ojiyashi) was the first to promote the cultivation and breeding of Japanese Nishikigoi (carp), which are very popular overseas as well. At Nishikigoi no Sato, visitors can admire authentic Nishikigoi raised with the clean water and traditional techniques along with its beautiful garden.
＜Ojiya Seasonal Recommendation＞Ojiya Balloon Festival (End of February)
Ojiya City is one of the heaviest snowfall areas in Niigata during winter. During Ojiya Balloon Festival, colorful balloons float in the blue sky over a snow creating a stunning view. The festival takes place over two venues - one with a competitive balloon event, and another with food stalls and the ability to ride in a hot air balloon yourself if you're feeling adventurous.
Ojiya Balloon Festival
＜Tsunan Seasonal Recommendation＞Tsunan Snow Festival (Mid March)
Tsunan Snow Festival is held at the "New Greenpia Tsunan" ski resort, where the "SNOW WAVE" ski snowboard jumping competition and live stage performances are held. A gorgeous and breathtaking lantern during the finale is an impressive beauty to experience.
Tsunan Snow Festival with floating lanterns
＜Yuzawa Town Seasonal Recommendation＞FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL(End of July)
Fuji Rock, the forerunner of Japan's summer festivals, is held every year at Naeba in Yuzawa City, Niigata Prefecture. The festival is held on the ski slopes and fans from Japan and abroad make a visit and fill the areas. Tickets go on sale early in the new year so planning ahead is very important.
FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL
▷【Myoko & Joetsu Region Overview】Magnificent area with many ski resorts
Myoko and Joetsu region is located in the southern area of Niigata Prefecture on the border of Nagano Prefecture. It takes about 2 hours to get to Joetsu Myoko Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo. In winter, visitors can enjoy skiing at the ski resorts in Joetsu, Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture. While in spring, visitors can see the stunning view of one of the best three night time cherries lit up beautifully over the Takada castle. And in summer, visitors can swim in the sea and pick up beautiful stones on the jade coast of Itoigawa. As there are many to choose from, this Myoko and Joetsu region is something to think about to put on your travel itinerary.
Cherry blossom at Takada Park
【Myoko City】 Madarao Kogen Ski Resort
A ski resort with abundant snowfall at an altitude of 1,000m
Madarao Kogen Ski Resort
Madarao Kogen Ski Resort is located between Myoko City in Niigata Prefecture and Iiyama City in Nagano Prefecture. The reason for its popularity is that it has the highest number of tree run courses in Japan. Visitors will be able to get the most out of the powdery snow in the endless forest. The slopes are open from mid-December to early April.
【Myoko City】 Lotte Arai Resort
Huge resort that can be enjoyed year round
Lotte Arai Resort
Lotte Arai Resort was built in 2017 and its still fairly new. There is a wide range of activities to choose from, including skiing and snowboarding with superb powder snow in the winter, as well as real aerial adventure park and bouldering activities with zip lines in the summer.
【Myoko City】 APA Resort Myoko Pine Valley
Green Season Resort with the world's largest illumination
APA Resort Myoko Pine Valley
APA Resort Myoko Pine Valley is a green season resort with a view of Mt. Myoko and approximately 5 million square meters of land (about 120 times the size of the Tokyo Dome) fully equipped with natural hot springs and sports activities such as golf and tennis. It is open from April to early November. Don't miss the large-scale illumination event that begins after sunset and uses approximately 600,000 LED bulbs.
【Myoko City】 Tsubame Onsen
Hidden onsen (hot spring) with white mineral rich waters
Tsubame Onsen (hot spring) is set on a spectacular cliff-side next to a fast-flowing river. This is a great destination for those wishing to experience something off the beaten track. The spring boasts white mineral rich waters which are supposed to have great healing properties especially for rheumatism, neuralgia, and various skin ailments. It is closed during winter.
【Joetsu City】 Takada Castle
A castle famous for its gorgeous cherry blossoms
Takada Castle Site Park with its cherry blossom
The best time to view the cherry blossoms in Niigata is from early to mid-April. There are about 4,000 cherry trees planted and it is lit up at night by 3000 paper lanterns to create a beautiful view under the pink light.
【Itoigawa City】 Jade Coast
Look for jade by the coast
The city of Itoigawa is the place of origin of jade, which has a tectonic line that divides the Japanese archipelago into east and west. It is one of the few places in the world where jade is produced, and has been registered in the UNESCO World Geopark.
There is a "Jade Coast"that is covered with round stones of jade in various shapes and sizes, and it is said that jade can sometimes be found here. There is also the Fossa Magna Museum nearby where the museum tells the story of Japan's minerals, rocks and fossils, including Itoigawa jade, as well as showing visitors how the Japanese archipelago was formed. The city is a great place to learn about "jade".