The best of Niigata, Yamagata and Akita along the sea of Japan (4 days / 3 nights)

Area Map 青森県 岩手県 宮城県 秋田県 山形県 福島県 新潟県

The best of Niigata, Yamagata and Akita along the sea of Japan (4 days / 3 nights)

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Sado Gold Mine

Discover the 400-year history of Sado, the island of gold and silver and a nominated candidate site to the UNESCO World Heritage List

Sado Gold Mine
The Sado Gold Mine was the largest gold and silver mine in Japan. It has a 400-year heritage spanning economic ups and downs from its opening in 1601 to its closure in 1989. The industrial remains of the gold mine including tunnels and mining infrastructure are designated both as a national treasure and as part of Japan’s Heritage of Industrial Modernisation. The site is a nominated candidate to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The remains of the gold mine are a popular location for history enthusiasts. The abandoned buildings remind visitors of Hayao Miyazaki's movie “Castle in the Sky”. Visitors can spend all day here to exploring the site’s photogenic scenery.

The gold mine offers two routes that visitors can explore (no reservation is required, each route takes 30 to 40 minutes). These routes are open every day. Large groups or anyone particularly interested in the history of the mine can make a reservation for one of two guided tours. The guided tours are available from April to November and take about 100 minutes. One is available for groups of over 10 people, the other is only for visitors over 13 years.
 

Lunch in Sado city (enjoy the fresh seafood of the season)

Lunch in Sado city  (enjoy the fresh seafood of the season)
 
 
 

Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)

A convention centre on the Niigata waterfront

Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)
Toki Messe is a convention centre located at the mouth of the Shinano River meeting the Sea of Japan. Architecturally resembling an ocean liner, the urban building is a highlight of Niigata’s waterfront.
The convention centre consists of a large, well-equipped exhibition hall, a variety of 13 conference rooms and an on-site hotel. It offers the perfect facilities to host conferences and parties including accommodation for guests and attendees.
On the 31st floor of the Bandaijima Building, the Befco Bakauke Observatory Room rises 125 metres above ground level and is the highest building along the Sea of Japan. Visitors can enjoy a 360° panoramic view of Niigata City, along with the Sea of Japan, Sado Island and the Gozu Mountains. Admission to the observatory is free.
The information desk at the convention centre has a wide range of brochures available and is the perfect place to plan your journey around Niigata.
 

Bandai Bridge

Niigata's iconic bridge standing majestically over the Shinano River

Bandai Bridge
The Bandai Bridge is a solid stone arch bridge crossing over the Shinano River. Decorations within the granite give the bridge a majestic appearance.

The current bridge is the third incarnation that was reconstructed in 1929 for the city’s modernisation. The Bandai Bridge was designated an Important Cultural Property in July 2004. Following Tokyo’s Nihonbashi Bridge, this was the second bridge on the national highway designated as an Important Cultural Property. The bridge is 306.9 metres long and 22 metres wide and survived the 1964 Niigata Earthquake. It provides an important transportation link for the local citizens.

The bridge has a broad pedestrian walkway and is best viewed from the promenades along the Shinano River. Take a stroll along one of the promenades or board the waterbus to really enjoy the view of this grand bridge!
 
 

Tsukioka Onsen

A popular hot spring for women promoting beautiful skin

Tsukioka Onsen
Tsukioka Onsen is famed for its rich sulphuric water with one of the highest sulphur contents of any Onsen in Japan. With exceptionally beautiful emerald green water this hot spring is particularly popular with women as the water is known to promote beautiful skin. The mild alkaline water is smooth on the skin leaving it soft and moist.

During an evening stroll around this hot spring town you will notice the scent of sulphur in the air and may catch a glimpse of a Kimono-clad Geisha dashing under the light of the street lamps. Enjoy a stay at one of the town’s traditional Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to really soak up the historic atmosphere.

The town’s charming streets are lined with a variety of traditional shops. Sample a cup of the local Sake, look in on the traditional sweets shops or even try your hand at baking and decorating your own rice crackers. The town also offers unique experiences such as soaking your hands in a special hot spring hand bath, tasting the sulphuric hot spring water or pouring it over the local matchmaking statue to wish for luck in love. Make the most of your Onsen experience with the Yumeguri Tegata Onsen Pass!
 
 

Former Honma Family Residence

Feel the spirit of simplicity and fortitude at the residence of Japan’s richest merchant!

Former Honma Family Residence
The Honma family was the wealthiest merchant family in Japan between the 17th and mid-20th centuries. Their immense wealth was larger than that of feudal lords and was the envy of people all over Japan. The Honma Residence originally served as regional quarters for visiting shogunate officials. The buildings are a unique fusion of the architectural styles of traditional samurai residences and merchant houses.

The old pine tree covering the roof of the front entrance reflects the spirit of the Honma family: “taking a low profile and being modest”. This spirit based on simplicity and fortitude can be seen through their dedication to the local area where they funded the planting of a barrier of trees to protect the locals’ fields and constructed residences and gardens to give farmers shelter and work even during times of poor harvests.

From late February to early April each year, the Sakata Hinakaido Festival takes place in the area. A collection of “Hina dolls” (dolls for the Girl’s Festival) are displayed at local venues including the Honma Residence and the Honma Museum. Most of the Hina dolls are private personal belongings and the festival offers a rare chance to see these precious traditional dolls. Don’t miss it!
 

Sankyo Soko Storehouse

These functioning rice storehouses form a picturesque view with their black wooden walls lined with a row of Keyaki trees

Sankyo Soko Storehouse
Built in 1893, the Sankyo Soko Storehouses continue to function today as rice storehouses. The impressive wisdom of the builders can be seen in such things as the double roof used for insulating heat and the row of Keyaki trees planted behind the storehouses to protect them from the afternoon sun and strong winds. Today the storehouses continue to protect the rice contained within them from heat and moisture using the same traditional methods.

The row of storehouses emanates a nostalgic atmosphere and maintains traces of the years when the area flourished as a port for rice shipments. The storehouses are a popular photography location as well as a favourite location for shooting movies and TV dramas. The storehouses gained fame after appearing in NHK’s popular TV drama series “Oshin”.

Standing beside the Mogami River the storehouses create fascinating views in combination with the port and small wooden rice-shipping boats. Their triangular roofs and white walls reflect serenely on the river water. On the other side of the storehouses is a parallel row of Keyaki trees which in combination with the stone pavements and the storehouses’ black wooden walls create more photogenic vistas! Visitors can enjoy pleasant scenes throughout the year including verdant greens of the Keyaki trees in summer, snow-capped triangular roofs in winter, illuminated storehouses at dusk and glittering stone pavements in the rain. The incredible views change depending on the season and time of day.

Regional products including tasty rice and local sake are available at the adjoining Sakata Yumenokura. The on-site restaurant offers dishes made with fresh seafood and harvests from the Shonai plains. The terrace seats are a lovely option to enjoy a drink and a meal on fine days.

Lunch in Sakata city

Lunch in Sakata city
 

Hiyoriyama Park

Learn about the historic port town of Sakata at this park with an iconic white lighthouse and traditional white sailing ship!

Hiyoriyama Park
Hiyoriyama Park is a historic park in the port town of Sakata. The park is a popular scenic location for cherry blossom viewing and offers dazzling views of the sunset over the Sea of Japan.

The chalk-white hexagonal lighthouse, one of Japan’s oldest wooden lighthouses, is a popular symbol of Hiyoriyama Park. The lighthouse was founded in 1813 to guide Kitamaebune cargo vessels at night and was a focus for prayers for safe journeys by the boatmen and shipping agents who regularly came to the port of Sakata.

The other well-known feature of the park is a Kitamaebune boat with a beautiful white sail. The half-scale model ship is the largest in Japan. Kitamaebune boats were also known as Sengokubune (1,000-koku vessels) because they had space for 1,000 koku (150 tons) of rice. The largest Kitamaebune with only one square sail could carry 2,400 koku (360 tons) of cargo.

The Kitamaebune ships also carried out extensive trade at ports along the route. It is said that a return journey between Osaka and Hokkaido could bring a profit of 1,000 ryo (Japan’s pre-Meiji gold currency). Today the model ship informs visitors about the history of the period and the boatmen’s dreams of making their fortune.

The park has a lovely strolling path with 29 monuments introducing writers and artists who visited Sakata. Enjoy learning about the history of this port town while taking a pleasant walk!
 
 

Yunohama Onsen

Enjoy the stunning sunset view over the sea while relaxing in an open-air bath at this Onsen!

Yunohama Onsen
Yunohama Onsen offers luxurious hot spring experiences at hotels facing the Sea of Japan, the perfect location to enjoy a spectacular sunset view while taking a relaxing soak in an open-air bath. The view of the blazing sun setting over the Sea of Japan is awe-inspiring, colouring everything in an orange glow as the sun fades into the sea. Yunohama Onsen is located on the Yunohama Coast whose stunning sunset views have been officially recognised as one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful.

After an excellent hot spring experience, enjoy some of the local specialties made with seafood from the Sea of Japan and fresh vegetables from the rich Shonai plains including bamboo shoots, Dadacha (a type of Edamame) beans, melons and warm fish soup.

The Yunohama Coast is also said to be the birthplace of Japanese surfing. There is a record that local youths rode waves on boards during the Edo period (1603-1868). The vast and shallow stretch of beach is perfect for bathing and water sports.

The nearby Tsuruoka City Kamo Aquarium is nationally renowned for its incredible display of jellyfish. Come and enjoy an ideal coastal holiday!
 
 
 

Senshu Park

Japanese gardens rich in history and seasonal beauty

Senshu Park
Built on the site of the town’s former castle ruins, Senshu Park is now home to beautiful Japanese gardens in the centre of Akita city. The park fascinates visitors with scenic seasonal images throughout the year. From mid to late April each year 730 cherry blossom trees are in bloom and the park has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 best cherry-blossom viewing locations. Other enchanting spectacles offered by the gardens include blooming azalea shrubs framing Kogetsu Pond from mid to late May, lotus flowers floating on the water of Otemon moat in late July, scarlet autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes.
The park is of historic significance as the site of Kubota Castle which was the residence of the Satake clan for 267 years from 1602. Visitors can still view the guardhouse built in the 1700s along with reconstructed buildings such as a watchtower and the front gate of the castle. The Satake Historical Museum at the southern end of the park contains displays of valuable historical documents as well as antique arms and armour.
Other historic locations in the park include Yojiro Inari Shrine with a series of photogenic vermillion gateways and Hachiman Akita Shrine whose dove-shaped fortune papers are popular with visitors. A 10-minute walk from Akita station takes visitors to this oasis in the city centre. Come for your chance of meeting Akita dogs and enjoying the rose-shaped ice cream unique to Akita!

Lunch in Akita city

Inaniwa Udon Noodles

Lunch in Akita city
Inaniwa-cho in the city of Yuzawa in Akita prefecture is the hometown of Inaniwa Udon noodles. The smooth, chewy noodles are hand-made using the traditional processes of kneading, pounding and stretching. Praised nationally as one of Japan’s three best noodles, Inaniwa Udon was used as a traditional offering to landlords and as gifts between feudal lords travelling to and from Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo period. In addition to the city of Yuzawa, there are a number of restaurants throughout Akita offering popular Inaniwa Udon.
 
 

Ogashinzan Folklore Museum

Experience a vigorous performance of the traditional Namahage folk ritual!

Ogashinzan Folklore Museum
“Namahage” is a folk ritual performed throughout the Oga Peninsula and surrounding areas. Each New Year’s Eve fierce demons known as Namahage visit each house to frighten misbehaved children. Despite their scary appearance, the Namahage are gods bringing the local people warnings against laziness as well as blessings for the wellbeing of their families and rich harvests from the mountains and the sea for the coming year.

The Ogashinzan Folklore Museum gives visitors the chance to learn about and experience the Namahage folklore tradition. The museum is in a traditional thatched-roof farmhouse known as Magariya (“bent house”) connected in an L-shape with a horse stable. Visitors seat themselves in the tatami-floored room beside a traditional “Irori” fireplace while listening to an explanation of the Namahage and viewing a live performance.

The fierce Namahage, stomping around the room and crying out for badly behaved children, are vigorous and frightening. Be sure to collect some of the fallen straw from the Namahage’s costumes which is said to be a charm against evil spirits. Please don’t pull at the costumes too forcefully though!

The nearby Namahage Museum offers a variety of displays on the Namahage and offers visitors the chance to dress-up in a Namahage costume. Enjoy discovering the folk culture of Namahage, officially recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage!
 

Namahage Museum

The collection of 150 hand-carved Namahage masks is a must see! Enjoy dressing up in a real Namahage costume!

Namahage Museum
“Namahage” is a folk ritual performed throughout the Oga Peninsula and surrounding areas. Each New Year’s Eve fierce demons known as Namahage visit each house to frighten misbehaved children. Despite their scary appearance, the Namahage are gods bringing the local people warnings against laziness as well as blessings for the wellbeing of their families and rich harvests from the mountains and the sea for the coming year.

The Namahage Museum introduces visitors to both the traditional and natural history of the region. The exhibition includes a wide variety of 150 masks actually used in the rituals of each town and village along with a video presentation of Oga’s New Year’s Eve Namahage ritual.

Visitors can have their photo taken in a real Namahage costume. The gift shop offers unique gifts related to Namahage along with demonstrations from wood carvers making the Namahage masks. Live performances take place sporadically each week, so visitors might be lucky enough to get a scare themselves!

The nearby Ogashinzan Folklore Museum offers performances of Namahage every day. Both museums are worth a visit to enjoy the unique folk culture of Namahage, officially recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage!
 

Oga Hot Spring Town

Oga Hot Spring Town
 

Nyudozaki

Enjoy the stunning view of the rough Sea of Japan from the “Land’s End of Tohoku”!

Nyudozaki
Nyudozaki is a scenic cape located at the northern tip of the Oga Peninsula offering a panoramic view of the Sea of Japan. The highlight is the view of the blazing sun setting over the sea as the sky and sea seamlessly merge on the horizon in shades of orange. This view from the cape has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful sunset views.

Formed by erosion from the raging waves of the Sea of Japan, rough marine terraces rise 30 metres above the coastal edges. These terraces lie in stark contrast with the tranquil green fields of the cape’s parklands.

The eye-catching black and white striped Nyudozaki Ligthtouse is a well-known symbol of the cape and is regarded as one of Japan’s 50 best lighthouses. The panoramic view from here stretches north as far as Mizushima Island.

Nyudozaki is situated at a latitude of exactly 40 degrees north. This line is marked by a unique series of monuments made of andesite volcanic rock from the Oga Peninusula.

Glass-bottom boat cruises are available exploring this section of the Sea of Japan with views back to the peninsula. There are souvenir shops and restaurants offering “Ishiyaki Cuisine”, a local specialty of fresh seafood and in-season vegetables cooked in a wooden hot pot with dashi soup. The dish has a unique cooking method in which piping hot pebble stones are placed directly into the hot pot. This technique was originated by local fishermen and the unique cooking performance adds to the enjoyment of this traditional dish!
 
 
GOAL
  • Sado Gold Mine
  • Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)
  • Bandai Bridge
  • Tsukioka Onsen
  • Former Honma Family Residence
  • Sankyo Soko Storehouse
  • Hiyoriyama Park
  • Yunohama Onsen
  • Senshu Park
  • Ogashinzan Folklore Museum
  • Namahage Museum
  • Oga Hot Spring Town
  • Nyudozaki

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