Roots of Japan


Niigata - home to Japan’s longest river, the Shinano River.Known for being a major rice producing region, Niigata is a popular destination for visitors wanting to enjoy delicious rice and Japanese Sake during their trip.It is easily accessible via Niigata Airport, Sado Airport or by Shinkansen.It’s also easy to go there by car, if you take the Kanetsu Expressway.Let’s take a look at what attractions can be found in this charming prefecture, Niigata.

Niigata has an approximate area of 12,584㎢ and an estimated population of 2.25 million people.With urbanization in the Meiji period yet to take off, most people earned a living from agriculture and Niigata once boasted the largest population in the country.Overall, Niigata has a Sea of Japan climate and is located in a heavy snowfall zone.There are numerous ski resorts within the region and in winter many people visit to enjoy winter sports.In summer, the foehn phenomenon causes temperatures and humidity to rise, creating many hot and humid days.

Niigata is divided into areas called Joetsu, Kaetsu, Chuuetsu and Sado, each with their own tourist attractions.Since the first kanji character of “Joetsu” can mean “up”, people tend to think Joetsu will be found in upper or northern Niigata - but actually it is the opposite. The lower area of Niigata, which includes Echigo Yuzawa etc, is called Joetsu.Let's take a look what kind of attractions each area has to offer.Later on, we will talk about Sado Island, so we'll leave it off the list for now.
1/ Marinepia Nihonkai (Niigata City Aquarium)
2/ Niigata Senbei Okoku (Rice Cracker Kingdom)
3/ Niigata Furusato Village
4/ Sasagawa-nagare Coast
5/ Yahiko Shrine
6/ Teradomari Fish Market
7/ Suntopia World Theme Park
8/ Echigo Hillside Park
9/ Takada Park
10/ Joetsu Aquarium Umigatari

Sasagawa-nagare Coast has been designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty and a Special Natural Monument.This beautiful coastline that stretches about 11 km is also a popular date spot.You can find fresh seafood at the Teradomari Fish Market Street.Some stores sell grilled skewers using a variety of different seafood so you can enjoy walking around trying out the food on offer.You’ll find a dining area on the second floor of many of these shops where they serve fresh Kaisendon (sashimi rice bowl) and the rather unique Kani (crab) Ramen.

Next, let's highlight the tourist attractions found on Sado Island, a remote island off the coast of Niigata.Sado is such a large island that it would be easy to draw if you were sketching the map of Japan.It is the second largest island after the Okinawa mainland.As might be expected from a large island, there are a wide variety of attractions!Let's take a look at just ten of them:
1/ Toki Forest Park
2/ Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
3/ Sado Magistrate's Office
4/ Ogi Coast
5/ Sado Nishimikawa Gold Park
6/ Futatsugame Beach
7/ Ogura Senmaida
8/ Shiizaki Suwa Shrine
9/ Sado Museum
10/ Senkaku Bay

Sado Kinzan Gold Mine has a very long history in gold mining, and here you can learn what life would have been like for the miners.Kids will no doubt enjoy checking out the life-size animatronic figures on display.Sado once produced a large amount of gold, so you can’t miss visiting Sado Nishimikawa Gold Park.You can try panning for gold!The gold dust you find can be made into a keychain etc, which would make a memorable souvenir to take home.Why not give it a try!

Niigata’s famous fireworks festivals attract spectators from all over the country.You will experience not only a lively atmosphere, but the excitement of a large-scale fireworks display.Here are some of Niigata’s most popular fireworks festivals.
1/ Nagaoka Matsuri Fireworks Festival
2/ Katakai Fireworks Festivals
3/ Niigata Festival
4/ Ojiya Matsuri Fireworks
5/ Gion Kashiwazaki Matsuri

When talking about Niigata, we can’t forget to mention the Nagaoka Matsuri Fireworks Festival.

This festival is held on August 2nd and 3rd every year, regardless of the day of the week.Many visitors come to see what is often said to be the best fireworks festival in Japan.The massive "Phoenix" fireworks set off during Ayaka Hirahara's famous song “Jupiter” has to be the highlight of the night!The "Shosanshakudama" and "Niagara" fireworks are also definitely worth seeing.At the Katakai Festival held every year on September 9th and 10th, you can see the massive Yonshakudama fireworks.You will want to visit this festival up close at least once, to see its awesome power!

Niigata is also home to many hot springs.How about enjoying the luxury of a relaxing soak by staying at a hot spring hotel?Check out these 5 popular hot spring resorts:
1/ Tsukioka Onsen
2/ Unohama Onsen
3/ Echigo-Yuzawa Onsen
4/ Senami Onsen
5/ Iwamuro Onsen

We just listed five here, but of course there are many more!The most popular is Tsukioka Onsen.It’s famous as the worst-tasting onsen in Japan!Here, you can drink the sulfurous-smelling hot spring water.
Go on, give it a try!

Echigo-Yuzawa, an area popular with those who enjoy winter sports, also has a hot spring.Come and relax your tired body after a day out skiing and snowboarding.Let’s look at some of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms and autumn colors in Niigata.There are many places where you can enjoy peaceful scenery and stunning seasonal colors.If you visit during the cherry blossom season, go ahead and add some of these places to your itinerary.First, here are some of the best spots to see cherry blossoms.
1/ Takada Park
2/ Shinanogawa Yasuragitei Ryokuchi Park
3/ Yukyuzan Park
4/ Shibata Castle Park
5/ Okozu Diversion Channel

Takada Park has been chosen as one of Japan's three greatest cherry blossom night viewing spots.It is absolutely beautiful to see 4,000 cherry trees in full bloom, set against the background of Takada Castle. Visit at night to enjoy this magical nighttime scenery.At Shinanogawa Yasuragitei Ryokuchi Park, enjoy cherry blossoms set against the banks of the Shinano river.Enjoy the peaceful scenery as you take a leisurely stroll.

Next, here are five of the best spots to see autumn colors.
1/ Kiyotsu Gorge
2/ Yuzawa Kogen
3/ Daigenta Canyon
4/ Naena Falls
5/ Osado Skyline

Kiyotsu Gorge is one of Niigata's popular tourist spots.Many come to see the stunning scenery at this designated National Place of Scenic Beauty and National Natural Monument.You will feel its power as you gaze upon the steep rocky walls that tower either side of Kiyotsu Gorge.The scenery is even more spectacular if you add colorful autumn colors.At the Yuzawa Kogen Panorama Park, you can enjoy the beautiful autumn colors from the aerial lift, or “ropeway”.It’s an easy way to enjoy the magnificent views!
Seeing the mountains covered in brilliant red and yellow autumn foliage is nothing short of spectacular.

Finally, let's take a look at some of Niigata's local cuisine.The rice and sake from Niigata, a major rice producing region, is simply delicious.Also, as Niigata faces the Sea of Japan, there is plenty of fresh seafood.Enjoy a food tour!
1/ Hegisoba Noodles
2/ Noppei Jiru (Vegetable soup)
3/ Sado Nishime (Vegetable stew)
4/ Kurumafu (Wheat-gluten bread)
5/ Sasadango (Dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaf)

Hegisoba are buckwheat noodles made using funori, a type of seaweed that acts as a binding agent.This unique type of soba is served in a dish called a “hegi.”You will definitely want to try this dish while you are visiting Niigata!Noppei Jiru is an essential dish for the new year in Niigata.This soup features a wide variety of ingredients cooked in a soy sauce broth, which can also be eaten cold.Try this unique flavor for yourself!And of course, we can’t forget the popular, Sasadango dumplings.These dumplings are filled with fragrant yomogi (mugwort) and have a chewy texture. You’ll find them quite addictive!

Today we highlighted Niigata's attractions and festivals.As you can see, Niigata can be enjoyed in many ways, all year round.Peaceful scenery and cherry blossoms in spring, fireworks festivals in summer, winter sports and hot springs in winter….With so much on offer, come more than once during different seasons!

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.