Flowers, sake, ski resorts, and centuries-old ruins on the mountaintop
Joetsu City is known for its culinary delights of sake and rice, but there is more to discover here. Takada Park boasts some of the country's most beautiful cherry blossoms, and the castle ruins atop Mt. Kasuga speak of the city's fascinating history.
- The evening cherry blossom-viewing festival at Takada Park every April
- The impressive samurai march at the annual Kenshinko Festival in August
- Panoramic views of the city from Mt. Kasuga
How to Get There
The Joetsu area is best accessed by train or car.
From Tokyo, you can reach Joetsu in two hours via Shinkansen. Get off at Joetsumyoko Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen, then take the local train (Shinetsu Honsen) to Takada or Naoetsu.
By car, the city is easily accessible by the Joetsu or Joetsu Takada Interchange on the Hokuriku and Joshinetsu expressways.
Joetsu was once home to Uesugi Kenshin, one of Japan's most powerful feudal lords
The Nadachi River boasts the highest number of migrating salmon in Niigata
Castle ruins and samurai fights on top of Mt Kasuga
The most important landmark in the area is undoubtedly the castle ruins located high on Mt Kasuga . This was once the fortress of Uesugi Kenshin, a powerful 16th-century feudal lord renowned for his fearsome skills in the martial arts. You can visit Uesugi's grave in Rinsen-ji Temple.
After a gentle hike up Mt Kasuga , you will reach the top and be rewarded with a panoramic view of Joetsu City.
Head to Kasugayama Shrine near the base of the mountain for some post-hike tranquility.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the city's samurai actors, who hold dramatic sword fights in front of the shrine.
To see hundreds of modern samurai marching as they once did in ancient Japan, be sure to check out the annual Kenshin Festival held at Kasuga in late August.
Mystical lunar cherry blossoms and more
Located 15 minutes away from Mt. Kasuga is Takada Park. Over 100,000 visitors flock here every year to see 4,000 cherry blossoms bloom under magical pink and purple lights from early to mid-April.
In summer, the lake of Takada Park is covered in bright green and pink lotus flowers, a perfect excuse for another colorful local festival.
Remembrance and reflection
The port of Naoetsu near central Joetsu once housed a prisoner of war camp where many Australian soldiers lost their lives during World War II.
A visit to the Peace Memorial Park and the accompanying museum allows you to dig into the city's emotional history as well as its current international ties. Beautiful yet sobering, the park is well worth a visit to see the friendship formed between two completely different countries and their efforts to commemorate a shared history.
After the Peace Memorial Park, visit nearby Naoetsu Beach, where you can wade in the beautifully clear waters and check out the iconic statue of a mermaid.
Internationally renowned sake
Being in the heart of rice country makes Joetsu a thriving hub for sake breweries. Among them, Katafune Sake Brewery—the winner of the International Wine Challenge 2015—is definitely worth a visit. It is a family-owned brand, and you need to call ahead to schedule a brewery visit. Although the brewery is small, the warm welcome provided will make you feel right at home.
Between the cities of Joetsu and Tokamachi lies the Cupid Valley ski resort in an area known as Yukidaruma Kogen or "Snowman Heights." The Kanayasan resort is also close to Joetsu and easily accessible from the city in case you want to spend a few hours on the slopes.
We recommend setting aside a couple of days to explore Joetsu and other nearby sights.
To the east, there is charming Tokamachi, where the striking Hoshitoge terraced rice paddies, Bijin-bayashi Forest, and Kiyotsukyo Gorge are located.
Northwards, you will find Kashiwazaki, a great little beach town perfect for those looking for an unfussy, simple getaway undisturbed by flocks of tourists. Sightseeing spots of note include Lovers' Point and Akasakayama Park.
Joetsu locals love a chance to party, so look out for these festivals in the surrounding areas:
Early to mid-April: Evening cherry blossom-viewing in Takada Park, Joetsu
Mid-July to mid-August: Sacred Lotus Festival in Takada Park, Joetsu
July 26: Annual fireworks festival at Kashiwazaki Central Beach, Minatomachi Seaside Park area
The fourth weekend in August: Kenshinko Festival in Kasugayama, Joetsu
Late October to late November: Nighttime autumn leaf viewing in Akasakayama Park, Kashiwazaki