There’s plenty to do in the largest city on Honshu’s Japan Sea coast
Japan 2019 Travel Guide: Niigata
From sea views to sushi and straw art to hot springs, there is a huge variety of things on offer in the port city of Niigata…
The Culture Vulture
September and October are not just the dates for the World Cup; it’s also when the Niigata Wara Art Festival takes place. The festival is held each year on the large grounds of Uwasekigata Park and the giant, carefully-crafted sculptures – often of animals – are made of rice straw collected after the harvest.
There are also around 90 sake breweries in Niigata, with the area’s land ideal for producing the rice crops needed. Head to the Ponshukan Sake Museum to taste different varieties.
And if you’re a fan of anime, check out the Niigata Manga Animation Museum.
Many sushi restaurants in the city offer a special ten-piece kiwami (‘the best’) platter that includes the chef’s selection of local seasonal offerings together with uni (sea urchin roe), toro (medium-fat tuna), and ikura (salmon roe). Plus, you get a clear soup. A great way to try the best the area has to offer.
Take a scenic drive along the Echigo Nanaura coastal route – there are great views of the sea and rock formations on the shore.
Learn how to make Koshihikari rice, then enjoy eating it with other local dishes as part of the Hagama Experience. There are also lots of sushi-making workshops.
You can relax in one of the many thermal spring resorts – Iwamuro, Tsukioka or Senami, for example. The latter faces the Japan Sea, where you can swim.
The Party Animal
Niigata’s Furumachi Kagai (geisha district) is a historical part of the city with a vibrant culture – and you can buy a TIPSY Pass to sample local dishes and sake at participating restaurants and bars, many of which have been running for more than 100 years.
Stroll around to take in the traditional buildings and soak up the atmosphere as well as enjoying the food and drink. It’s a ten-minute taxi ride from Niigata station.
For more travel information…
How to get there
You can reach Niigata City in approximately two hours by bullet train from Tokyo. Alternatively, there are once-daily direct flights with ANA from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to Niigata Airport that take 65 minutes.