May 30, 2023

From Tokyo, we took the “Toki” or “Max Tokishinkansen (bullet prepare) of the JR East’s Joetsu Shinkansen line within the morning.

You may simply entry this prepare from Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, or Ōmiya Station (you’ll be able to test Google Maps to map out your route with a view to attain certainly one of these 3 stations relying on the place you’re situated in Tokyo).

Upon arrival…

◘◘ Eat hegisoba for lunch

That is certainly one of Niigata’s native dishes and it’s principally a soba (Japanese buckwheat skinny noodles) that’s manufactured from funori (seaweed) which is not like the standard soba that makes use of wheat. Due to this, hegisoba has a easy but ‘al dente‘ texture that’s well-known among the many Japanese.

That is usually served on an oblong wood plate during which the noodles are already sectioned into particular person mouthful parts, thereby making it very simple to eat. The way to finest eat hegisoba? You might both eat it as is, or dip it within the mentsuyu (black-colored soup base that might be offered to you) which you’ll additional taste with sesame seeds, radish, wasabi, or inexperienced onions.

Advisable: Kojimaya CoCoLo Niigata (one department is situated in Niigata station)

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◘◘ Go to Saitou Villa (features a geisha present and snacks)

This can be a summer time villa that was constructed again in 1920 by a rich service provider in Niigata. Immediately, it’s a place used to welcome honored friends within the metropolis similar to public figures, and celebrities; however extra generally, it’s a place that’s preserved and revered as a valued cultural constructing.

And for almost $26, you’ll be able to discover Saitou Villa’s room and gardens, style some Japanese sweets and matcha (inexperienced tea), AND be entertained by Furumachi geigi (geisha of Niigata). This can be a steal in fact, particularly in case you evaluate it to the costly charge that you should pay simply to fulfill an actual geisha in a dinner banquet program (which is able to nearly be much like what you’ll expertise right here!).

So I say, it is a MUST to do in your Niigata itinerary!

Transport & Journey Information: Niigata Hanamachi Chaya
The Furumachi district of Niigata is taken into account one of many three most prestigious areas in Japan for geisha, together with Gion in Kyoto and Shinbashi in Tokyo. Therefore, witnessing Niigata’s geisha is a must-do!

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◘◘ Drop by Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery

Niigata is well-known for producing the best sake or nihonshu (Japanese liquor). Why so? Merely due to the snow. With the prefecture’s bountiful snowfall on its mountains, it has consistently yielded circumstances which are excellent for making sake: purified air from fixed snowing and snow-melted waters (nice for rising rice paddies and brewing sake).

To finest get pleasure from this, head on ever to Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery as a result of you’ll be able to then go on a FREE tour of their institution as you study extra concerning the making of sake. What’s extra, you’ll be able to even style a few of their merchandise! (My favourite sake bottles are: Moto, Karyu-kai, and Junmai).

Transport & Journey Information: Imayotsukasa Website

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◘◘ Seize dinner at an izakaya

Lengthen your enjoyment of Niigata’s high-quality sake by visiting a typical Japanese gastropub that’s referred to as an ‘izakaya‘.

Different Drinks to Attempt: umeshu (plum wine), biiru (Japanese beers), shōchū (distilled beverage) Dishes to Attempt: yakitori (grilled rooster skewers), karaage (Japanese fried rooster), sashimi (uncooked fish)

TRIVIA: Apparently, the Japanese usually prefer to seize ramen (noodle dish) after a protracted evening of consuming since it’s mentioned to assist them deal with the alcohol, in addition to assist them take care of a hangover in a while!

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◘◘ Verify in to a lodge within the metropolis

To cap off your first day on this Niigata itinerary, select from…
Luxurious: Hotel Nikko Niigata
Mid-Vary: Art Hotel Niigata Station or AirBnB
Price range: APA Hotel Niigata Higashinakadori

On today of my Niigata itinerary, we headed over to Sado Island which is part of the prefecture. In an effort to get right here, we took the Jetfoil jet boat with the route Niigata – Ryotsu and it departs each hour at a price of ¥6,520 yen. It takes about an hour to get to Sado Island from Niigata port with a quick boat like this.

In order for you cheaper choices, there are the opposite ferry routes:

  • Naoetsu–Ogi: ¥2,720 yen, 2.5 hours, 4-5 occasions each day
  • Teradomari–Akadomari: ¥2,960 yen, 2 hours, 2-3 occasions each day

When you arrive at Sado…

◘◘ Play at Sado Island’s Taiko Centre

A ‘taiko‘ is a conventional Japanese percussion instrument, and certainly one of Japan’s hottest taiko teams which are additionally recognized internationally known as Kodo. Hailing from Sado Island, they’ve constructed this enjoyable Tatakokan (Taiko Centre) in order that guests can have a hands-on expertise with Kodo instructors on methods to play the taiko.

This was an expertise that I really loved and it’ll absolutely be an much more enjoyable exercise in case you include plenty of buddies or household!

Transport & Journey Information: Kodo Taiko

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◘◘ Attempt a tarai-bune (tub boat)

YES, you learn that proper! As seen within the lower-left photograph above, these cut-off barrels are a type of tub boat that was sensible to make use of within the olden occasions with a view to acquire shellfish and seaweed from rocky coastal waters. Immediately, nonetheless, they’re primarily used to amuse vacationers on Sado Island.

Using this boat really made me anxious (effectively sure, it’s a ‘tub boat’ in spite of everything); relaxation assured, it’s completely protected and a very enjoyable and fascinating factor to do!

Transport & Journey Information: You may purchase this service in your Niigata itinerary from Ogi port or at Yajima-Kyojima space (which has extra scenic environment). They’re open each day all year long (8:30AM to five:00PM), spans for 10 minutes, can maintain 3 individuals on one tub boat, and prices ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for youngsters.

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◘◘ Decide up and produce dwelling some gold mud at Nishi-Mikawa gold park

In case you head over to this hands-on museum in your Niigata itinerary, you’ll not solely study extra about Sado’s famed gold actions but additionally concerning the means of mining and refining it. The particular factor about this museum although is its epic gold-picking exercise!

For under ¥800 yen, you’ll be able to strive gold panning for half-hour within the learners’ course space. Moreover, you’ll be able to preserve the gold mud that you will see that inside that timeframe! YES, you actually can take it dwelling.

Transport & Journey Information: Nishi-Mikawa Website

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◘◘ Stroll round Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen-Park

This can be a park that gives wonderful coastal sights over Senkaku-wan Bay. For the most effective 360 views, go to the neighborhood’s Ageshima Observatory and Yusenkyo Bridge.

Transport & Journey Information: Ageshima

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◘◘ Tour Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mine)

Financed by the Tokugawa shogunate for 388 years from 1601 to 1989, that is the island’s most vital historic web site — in actual fact, due to its wealthy historical past (being Japan’s largest gold mine in that period) it’s now actively promoted for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Website.

As soon as contained in the tunnels, you’ll see a number of exhibitions of robots that painting the miners in the course of the Edo interval (as a method of recreating the previous ambiance or look).

Transport & Journey Information: Sado Kinzan Website

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◘◘ Verify in to a lodge or ryokan on the island

A quintessential journey to Japan is NOT full with no journey to a ryokan (Japanese conventional inn).

A number of the bucket record issues to do as soon as booked inside one: sleep in a tatami-matted room, strive the onsen (sizzling spring baths), put on a yukata, and eat kaiseki (conventional multi-course Japanese dinner)!

Different selections are…
Luxurious: Hotel Azuma
Mid-Vary: Kohan no Yado Yoshidaya or AirBnB
Price range: Sado Bellemer Youth Hostel

On the third day of this Niigata itinerary, I rode a jet boat to get again to Niigata port and metropolis.

◘◘ Go see the Hoppō Bunka Hakubutsukan (Northern Tradition Museum)

That is an open-air museum that options the well-known mansion of Ito Bunkichi who was one of many biggest landowners in Niigata in the course of the Edo Interval. Aside from the mansion, it additionally homes a picturesque backyard, paintings, calligraphy works, ceramics, and a lot extra.

You might additionally eat lunch right here within the former kitchen of the Ito household in order that you may style typical native dishes that had been served again in these occasions!

Transport & Journey Information: Northern Cultural Museum Website

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◘◘ Welcome your self into Niigata’s Senbei Okoku (Kingdom)

Rice is made throughout Japan, however it’s in Niigata the place you will discover the BEST-tasting rice that there can ever be within the nation. Naturally, senbei (rice cracker) manufacturing is successful in Niigata with Kuriyama Beika Group as one of the well-liked manufacturers.

It’s right here in Senbei Okoku the place they then provide its guests the prospect to style freshly-baked crackers, purchase a number of souvenirs, and see the precise cooking course of up shut. They even provide the prospect for individuals to make, roast, and design their very own rice crackers! It’s an gratifying exercise for certain, particularly for households.

Transport & Journey Information: Senbei Website

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◘◘ Make sasadango at Tanakaya Minato Kobo

Dango (sticky rice cake) is a well-liked conventional snack in Japan and in Niigata, they’ve their very own distinctive model referred to as ‘sasa dango’. Mainly, these are constituted of steamed and pounded glutinous rice with crimson bean paste filling which is then wrapped and tied utilizing sasa (bamboo leaf).

As a remaining contact, will probably be steamed altogether.

In case you head over to Tanakaya Minato Kobo, aside from tasting and taking it dwelling as a memento, you may additionally undergo a mini cooking class with a view to discover ways to make sasadango!

Transport & Journey Information: Koubou Website

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◘◘ Stroll round Minatopia

In case you’re within the historical past of Niigata’s metropolis, visiting Minatopia is a should. Aside from the museum and constructing constructions (such because the Niigata Customs Home) within the space that explains the previous of town, this spot can also be an awesome place for admiring the Shinano River.

Handle: 2-10 Yanagishima

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◘◘ Stroll via town’s important purchasing road

Make your method in the direction of the Bandai and/or Furumachi space to take your time in choosing the locations you’ll eat and store in — moreover, they’ve an array of great choices so that you can select from!

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◘◘ Verify in to Lodge Nikko

I like to recommend Hotel Nikko as a result of it has an excellent 360 view over Niigata’s cityscape which might be simply seen not solely from inside your room but additionally from its topmost ground!

We made our method out of town for today of my Niigata itinerary to do the next:

◘◘ Discover and choose fruits at Shirone Grape Backyard

This institution is stuffed with greenhouses that organically develop a number of varieties of fruits similar to kiwis, persimmons (a should to strive as a result of it was soooo good!), grapes, peaches, strawberries, and extra. And relying on the time of your go to, you’ll be able to choose fruits for FREE!

To cap off your go to, be sure that to strive their well-liked gelatos that are all constituted of pure elements.

Transport & Journey Information: Kudamonogari

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◘◘ Cease by Yahiko Shrine

Smacked in the midst of a lush forest and on the foot of a mountain, Yahiko Shrine in Yahiko Village is extensively adored and worshipped by the Japanese.

Expertise and observe the completely different shrines or Shinto practices right here! One fascinating factor you can too do is purchase an omikuji which is a randomly written divination about your close to future. These are ignored on a wood field close to the shrine with a worth label on it (it’s usually self-serving like this). Pay the value, choose a folded paper from the field and see your fortune!

For the primary time, I drew a daikichi which meant ‘glorious luck’. My information mentioned that I ought to make full use of it and do issues like shopping for lottery tickets, and so forth. haha!

Journey Instructions Information: Go over to Niigata station, take the Echigo Line that goes to the path of Yoshida (各停). Cease at Yoshida station (14 stops complete) and alter to a unique line, Yahiko Line that heads to Yahiko (各停). Cease at Yahiko Station (2 stops complete).

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◘◘ Dine at Cave D’Occi Vineyard

Set within the plains of Kakudahama, Cave d’Occi Vinespa is a multipurpose vineyard resort that features not solely a restaurant however a spa, an onsen (sizzling spring tub), and a visitor home (for guests who need to spend extra time exploring the vineyards).

Ensure to purchase or strive their wines since they style actually good!

Transport & Journey Information: Docci Website

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◘◘ Look via TsubameSanjo Regional Industries Promotion Centre

If you wish to purchase extra souvenirs from Niigata to take dwelling, making a cease by this heart needs to be up in your journey itinerary.

Mainly, Tsubame-Sanjo is among the most sought-after Japanese manufacturers on the subject of metalworks or gadgets attributable to their top quality and craftsmanship; so, it’s undoubtedly price your time to take a peek right here.

Transport & Journey Information: TsubameSanjo Website

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◘◘ Stroll round Minamiuonuma

This metropolis is a well-liked winter vacation spot attributable to its very good location. As soon as there, you’ll have a selection of over 10 ski and snowboard resorts that are a mixture of massive and small institutions which are appropriate for all ranges of skiers and snowboarders.

Relaxation assured, in case you’re approaching a month with no snow in your Niigata itinerary, there are numerous issues to do right here nonetheless, and certainly one of my favorites is exploring Bokushi Dori (road) which can also be referred to as Shiozawajuku. Strolling via this space is like stepping again in time given how it’s speckled with Edo Interval homes and retailers.

Transport & Journey Information: Minamiuonuma Website

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◘◘ Verify right into a ryokan similar to Lodge Futaba

In order for you the most effective ryokan (Japanese inn) keep that you would be able to ever expertise, try Hotel Futaba!

In case you’ve obtained some extra additional time for you Niigata itinerary, I extremely suggest the next:

◘◘ Go to Ponshukan

Ponshukan might be discovered at Echigo-Yuzawa station and it’s a corridor that options a number of sights:

  • Sake merchandising machines: it’s precisely what the identify implies! With over 96 completely different manufacturers obtainable, you simply have to purchase a cup price ¥500 solely, put a plastic token within the machine’s coin slot, slip in your cup, after which will probably be stuffed to the brim with sake. If unsure, there are workers individuals who would gladly help you!
  • Sake store: are you somewhat in search of bottles of sake? Subsequent door is a sake store that has over 96 varieties.
  • Buying space: there are numerous small stalls across the Ponshukan corridor that provide varied items from sweets to souvenirs.
  • Onsen: in order for you a singular type of onsen expertise, subsequent door can also be an onsen however what units it aside from typical onsens is that you would be able to dip right here in sake!!
  • Guinness World File: In case you go deep inside Ponshukan, you will see that a store that has the biggest show of handmade stuffed toys (11,655) which are tied via strings. This was achieved by Integrated Non-Revenue Group Japan Tsurushi-bina Affiliation and Akira Kitano final 2012.

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◘◘ Drop by Niigata Furusato Village

That is technically NOT a village as it’s extra of a tourism facility that homes a HUGE array of merchandise which are excellent for souvenirs: soba, crafts, items, dairy, sake — you’ll discover all of it right here. You’ll even discover some reveals right here that depict Niigata’s historical past, and once you need some nature, simply step out and also you’ll see an enormous discipline filled with 60,000 tulips!

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◘◘ Take Instagram-worthy photographs at Hoshi-Toge Rice Subject

Dubbed “Japan’s 100 finest rural spots”, these rice-terraced fields have their very own distinctive look that’s finest visited both throughout dawn or sundown. I guarantee you that the view from this space will take your breath away!

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◘◘ Go to Yahiko Park (Maple Valley)

Greatest to do in Autumn. When within the Yahiko Village space, be sure that to drop by Yahiko Park. Right here, you will see that nice sceneries that fantastically categorical each 4 seasons. Autumn season is definitely the most effective time to return right here as a result of the vermillion-lacquered Kan-tsuki Bridge completely blends in with the entire sizzling colours.

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◘◘ Ski at one of many prefecture’s ski resorts similar to Akakura Kanko Resort and Spa

Greatest to do in Winter (December to Might). This resort is claimed to be the primary in Japan to be designated as a global ski resort. You are able to do a whole lot of actions right here: snowboarding and 11 trails (longest at 4km amongst many others. There’s even a particular space referred to as the Chibikko Hiroba which is for youngsters who’re too younger to hit the slopes.

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◘◘ Attend a minimum of one (1) Niigata occasion or pageant

A number of the most fascinating ones are…

  • Sake no Jin (Niigata Sake Pageant): Held mid-March, because the land of sake, that is certainly one of Niigata’s main occasions. At this pageant, you’ll be able to pattern over 500 styles of sake from roughly 90 native brewers! Simply buy a tasting ticket and also you’re certain to have a good time via and thru!
  • Tokamachi Snow Pageant: Sapporo is likely to be essentially the most well-known snow pageant, however Niigata’s is definitely the oldest and doubtless essentially the most laid-back and genuine snow celebration as effectively. Moreover, with the heavy snowfall within the space, there isn’t any scarcity of sculptures which are dispersed throughout city! In case you’re enthusiastic about witnessing this spectacle, you must come on the third Saturday of February.
  • Oiran Dochu Courtesan Procession: Oirans not exist in Japan, however as a method of commemorating their distinctive magnificence and tradition as high-rank courtesans and entertainers, processions like this are sometimes held in Japan. Niigata has its personal and it’s often held in the midst of April in Jizoudouhonchoudoori, Tsubame (Ookouzu banks, close to Bunsui station).
  • Niigata Hanae Undertaking: Since Niigata is certainly one of Japan’s main tulip producers, this occasion that’s held from April 29 to Might 2 is the place members will create large “flower work” utilizing tulips that had been discarded within the means of bulb cultivation.
  • Nagaoka Pageant: As per typical, you’ll anticipate float parades and folks dance processions in festivals like this; BUT the principle spotlight of this affair held on August 1 to three is its large-scale fireworks show that occurs over the Shinano River. Useful to notice is that it’s thought-about one of many high 3 fireworks reveals in Japan since you’ll typically witness insane stuff like 650-meter large sanshakudama fireworks, waterfall shapes, volcano-like formations, and 20,000 smaller shakudama fireworks.
  • Niigata Pageant: Lasting for 3 days beginning on August 7, you will note a whole lot of float parades, firework shows, and dance processions (that usually contain round 20,000 individuals)!
  • Earth Pageant: Held on Sado Island in August, the spotlight of this pageant is the efficiency of the world-famous taiko drummer group, Kado. This pageant lasts for 3 days and consists of varied occasions in an open-air live performance fashion.