A city by the sea and a land of quality rice and sake
Niigata is a beautiful city whose northwest faces the Sea of Japan. As Japan's largest agricultural city, Niigata is covered largely by rice fields. Yet, this port town is a sophisticated transportation hub, easily accessible by air, sea and rail.
- Drinking top-quality sake to your heart's content at the Niigata Sake Fair
- Viewing cherry blossoms in Hakusan Park
- Learning about the marine life of the Sea of Japan at Marinepia Nihonkai Aquarium
- Taking a ferry to Sado Island
How to Get There
North of Tokyo, Niigata is easily accessible by bullet train.
From Tokyo Station , take the Joetsu Shinkansen to Niigata Station. The ride takes about two hours. Another option is to take a highway bus from Ikebukuro in Tokyo. The ride takes roughly four to five hours. Buses also link other major cities to Niigata.
The new and old
The Shinano River runs through the center of Niigata City and divides the town into two halves: the newer part in the south and the older part in the north. These two districts are connected by the six-arch Bandai Bridge , a symbol of the city and a designated Important National Cultural Asset.
Near Bandai Bridge is Bandai City Rainbow Tower, with an observation deck at 100 meters. Food enthusiasts can take in the view of the revolving restaurant on the same floor.
Bandai Bridge and Rainbow Tower form part of Bandai City, the new part of Niigata City that provides a host of entertainment. In Bandai City, you'll find shops, movie theaters, and restaurants clustered together.
Niigata and the sea
Life in Niigata City is closely tied to its coastal location on the Sea of Japan. To the north of Niigata City lies Sasagawanagare, a coastline section where surfers and beach lovers flock in the summertime.
To see local sea life up close, make your way to the Marinepia Nihonkai Aquarium. This aquarium is home to over 20,000 sea creatures of 450 varieties. The dolphin show is the most popular event at the aquarium.
Rice is the local star
Niigata is proud of its rich variety of wonderful foods, especially seafood and rice. Inside Niigata Station is Ponshukan , a theme park of sake where you can sample some 117 different brands of the brew out of small vending machines.
Enjoy the changing seasons
Although the area is famous for snow, springtime is especially beautiful in Niigata City. The most popular places to see cherry blossoms in the city are at Hakusan Park and Hakusan Shrine.
Winters are marked by deep snow. One of the best ways to enjoy winter is bathing in local hot springs. There are many onsen resorts within easy reach of Niigata City including Sakihana Onsen, Senami, Tsukioka, Deyu, Murasagi, Shirone, Odate, Iwamuro and Yahiko.
Art, history and the art of hospitality
For history lovers, make sure you visit Minatopia, the Niigata City History Museum in the old district. This museum is housed in the former Niigata Customs House, Daishi Bank, and City Hall buildings.
For an authentic Japanese experience, visit the Northern Culture Museum . Here, you can walk inside a traditional Japanese mansion with tea rooms surrounded by elegant gardens. In late spring, the area is garlanded with purple wisteria flowers.
Nearby Iwamuro Onsen is known as the birthplace of geisha in Niigata. You can enjoy the hot springs and watch geisha performances in the evening.
Fireworks and sake
The rice wine produced in Niigata is internationally renowned, and the best time to drink to your heart's content is the annual Niigata Fair held in March.
For a small fee, visitors can sample more than 200 top-quality sake from local breweries at this all-you-can-drink sake fair.
In early August, Niigata holds a portable shrine festival with a fireworks display over the Shinano River and a folk dancing parade with around 20,000 participants.
About an hour south of Niigata City, Shirone Town is known for its annual giant kite-flying festival in June. These kites are seven meters by five meters and are all handmade.
Yahiko, another town south of Niigata City, holds an annual lantern festival at Yahiko-jinja Shrine in July, with illuminated floats, parades, and fireworks.