Niigata’s beautiful natural wonders
Hoshitoge Rice Terraces
Located in Tokamachi city, Niigata, the Hoshitoge Rice Terraces are famous for their scenic terraced rice fields and have been selected as one of the 100 most beautiful villages in Japan.
When the paddies are filled with water photographers come here to catch picturesque reflections. If you visit in the early morning, you may have a chance to see an illusionary landscape of misty clouds over the terraced fields.
Known as the lake of swans, Hyoko Lake has been designated a national natural treasure.
Flocks of swans reside here from early October to late March. Between 5,000 and 6,000 swans are here at their peak in late November. Tundra swans, Whooper swans and Mute swans can be seen and visitors can buy designated food for feeding each variety.
Tobishima Liquorice Flowers at Onogame
Onogame is a giant, turtle-shaped monolith standing 167 metres above ground level plunging into the Sea of Japan at the north-western tip of Sado Island. This massive rock has been awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide.
Onogame is also known for its landscape of Tobishima liquorices with the surrounding area covered with a carpet of yellow liquorice flowers from late May to early June.
Sasagawa Nagare Coastline
Sasagawa Nagare is an 11-kilometre stretch of coastline near the city of Murakami, with beautifully contrasting clear blue water and white sandy beaches. Along this stretch of coast the rough waters of the Sea of Japan have created uniquely eroded rocks with submerged peaks and caves, scenery that takes visitors’ breath away. The magnificent view has been designated a place of scenic beauty and a national natural treasure.
Niigata has a number of ski resorts easily accessible from Tokyo including the Yuzawa area around Echigo-Yuzawa station on the Joetsu Shinkansen line and Myoko Kogen near Joetsu Myoko station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. Ski rentals are available in the resorts for additional convenience. Along with skiing and snowboarding, a wide range of winter activities are on offer including sledging and snow tubing.
Niigata’s history, culture and festivals
Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks
Nagaoka Festival is held from August 1 to August 3 every year. Said to be one of the three largest fireworks festivals in Japan, it is one of the most famous fireworks festivals in the country. The Nagaoka fireworks commemorates the people who died in the Nagaoka air raid or Chūetsu earthquakes, gives thanks to the predecessors who worked hard to rebuild the town, and prays for eternal peace.
Takada Park is home to castle ruins and is famous for its gorgeous cherry blossoms. In spring, many visitors come here for the Takada Castle Cherry Blossom Festival. The highlight is Sakura Road, a tunnel of cherry blossom trees illuminated at night. The park is known as one of the top three cherry blossom night viewing locations in Japan and attracts visitors with its popular views of the three-storied pagoda and cherry blossom trees illuminated by lanterns reflecting on the water of the surrounding moat.
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.
Northern Culture Museum
The Northern Culture Museum is the former residence of a local wealthy farming family. The magnificently well-preserved residence took 8 years to build and is now open to the public. The vast 29,100m2 grounds of the residence are home to the main building, a grand hall, a tearoom, a warehouse, and a wide range of artworks collected over generations, along with a promenade garden designed by an acclaimed landscape gardener. The garden pleases visitors throughout the year, with spring cherry blossoms, summer lotus flowers and snowy winter scenes.
Yahiko Park is a popular destination for people wanting to enjoy its historic beauty. Maple Valley is known as a popular viewing location for stunning autumn leaves. The vermillion Kan-tsuki Bridge is the ideal location for photos of the illuminated view of maple trees at night. Admire the seasonal beauty of this park with its cherry blossom in spring, fireflies in summer.
Onsens in Niigata
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.
Echigo-Yuzawa Onsen is located near Echigo-Yuzawa station and is accessible from Tokyo via a 70-minute ride on the Joetsu Shinkansen. Many ski resorts are within walking distance of each other offering a range of snow activities. This hot spring resort is the perfect place for both day visitors and overnight guests to relax after an active day in the snow with foot baths located near Echigo-Yuzawa station and six public baths available.
Niigata’s culinary highlights
Benefiting from abundant inshore fisheries, Niigata offers plenty of fresh seafood from the local sea. Among a wide variety of fish, Blackthroat sea perch (rosy seabass) known as “Nodoguro” is a delicious eye opener! This luxurious white fish is exceptionally fatty and is reminiscent of Toro (the fattiest part of tuna). Be sure to savour the premium “Kiwami” set available in a number of sushi restaurants in Niigata, specially created by local sushi masters to showcase both Niigata’s premium rice and the best in-season seafood including Nodoguro and the local sweet Namban shrimp!
Niigata prefecture is known for its fine sake and is home to as many as 90 independent sake breweries. The locally brewed sake has a dry, crisp and refreshing taste. Many breweries in the region offer tours and tasting experiences that allow visitors to sample and purchase from a wide range of premium quality sake. For those who love a festival atmosphere, the breweries of Niigata prefecture gather annually in the city of Niigata for the Niigata Sake-no-Jin fair held in March. The fair is popular with both locals and tourists who can enjoy some of the 500 varieties of local sake on offer along with a range of regional cuisine.