4 Days or More in Japan’s off the Beaten Path


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

You can simply entry this practice from Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, or Ōmiya Station (you may test Google Maps to map out your route so as to attain considered one of these 3 stations relying on the place you might be situated in Tokyo).

Upon arrival…

◘◘ Eat hegisoba for lunch

This is considered one of Niigata’s native dishes and it’s mainly a soba (Japanese buckwheat skinny noodles) that’s fabricated from funori (seaweed) which is in contrast to the standard soba that makes use of wheat. Because of this, hegisoba has a easy but ‘al dente‘ texture that’s well-known among the many Japanese.

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

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

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◘◘ Visit Saitou Villa (features a geisha present and snacks)

This is a summer season villa that was constructed again in 1920 by a rich service provider in Niigata. Today, it’s a place used to welcome honored company within the metropolis resembling 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 may 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 is a steal after all, particularly when you evaluate it to the costly price that it’s essential pay simply to fulfill an actual geisha in a dinner banquet program (which can nearly be just like what you’ll expertise right here!).

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

Transport & Travel Guide: 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. Hence, 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? Simply due to the snow. With the prefecture’s bountiful snowfall on its mountains, it has continually yielded situations which are good for making sake: purified air from fixed snowing and snow-melted waters (nice for rising rice paddies and brewing sake).

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

Transport & Travel Guide: Imayotsukasa Website

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◘◘ Grab dinner at an izakaya

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

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

TRIVIA: Apparently, the Japanese sometimes prefer to seize ramen (noodle dish) after an extended evening of consuming since it’s stated to assist them deal with the alcohol, in addition to assist them take care of a hangover afterward!

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◘◘ Check in to a lodge within the metropolis

To cap off your first day on this Niigata itinerary, select from…
Luxury: Hotel Nikko Niigata
Mid-Range: Art Hotel Niigata Station or AirBnB
Budget: APA Hotel Niigata Higashinakadori

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

If you need cheaper choices, there are the opposite ferry routes:

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

Once you arrive at Sado…

◘◘ Play at Sado Island’s Taiko Centre

A ‘taiko‘ is a traditional Japanese percussion instrument, and one of Japan’s hottest taiko teams which are additionally recognized internationally is 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 the right way to play the taiko.

This was an expertise that I actually loved and it’ll certainly be an much more enjoyable exercise when you include quite a few buddies or household!

Transport & Travel Guide: Kodo Taiko

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◘◘ Try a tarai-bune (tub boat)

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

Riding this boat really made me anxious (properly sure, it’s a ‘tub boat’ in any case); relaxation assured, it’s completely protected and a very enjoyable and fascinating factor to do!

Transport & Travel Guide: You can purchase this service to your Niigata itinerary from Ogi port or at Yajima-Kyojima space (which has extra scenic environment). They are open every 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 kids.

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

If you head over to this hands-on museum to your Niigata itinerary, you’ll not solely be taught extra about Sado’s famed gold actions but in addition in regards to the strategy of mining and refining it. The particular factor about this museum although is its epic gold-picking exercise!

For solely ¥800 yen, you may attempt gold panning for half-hour within the freshmen’ course space. Furthermore, you may hold the gold mud that you can find inside that timeframe! YES, you actually can take it dwelling.

Transport & Travel Guide: Nishi-Mikawa Website

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◘◘ Walk round Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen-Park

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

Transport & Travel Guide: 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 essential historic website — in truth, 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 Site.

Once contained in the tunnels, you’ll see a number of exhibitions of robots that painting the miners throughout the Edo interval (as a means of recreating the previous environment or look).

Transport & Travel Guide: Sado Kinzan Website

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

A quintessential journey to Japan is NOT full with out a journey to a ryokan (Japanese conventional inn).

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

Other decisions are…
Luxury: Hotel Azuma
Mid-Range: Kohan no Yado Yoshidaya or AirBnB
Budget: 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 Culture Museum)

This is an open-air museum that options the well-known mansion of Ito Bunkichi who was one of many best landowners in Niigata throughout the Edo Period. Other than 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 could possibly style typical native dishes that had been served again in these occasions!

Transport & Travel Guide: 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 could find 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 some of the standard manufacturers.

It is right here in Senbei Okoku the place they then supply 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 supply the prospect for folks to make, roast, and design their very own rice crackers! It’s an pleasurable exercise for positive, particularly for households.

Transport & Travel Guide: 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’. Basically, these are made out of steamed and pounded glutinous rice with crimson bean paste filling which is then wrapped and tied utilizing sasa (bamboo leaf).

As a closing contact, it will likely be steamed altogether.

If you head over to Tanakaya Minato Kobo, other than tasting and taking it dwelling as a memento, you could possibly additionally undergo a mini cooking class so as to discover ways to make sasadango!

Transport & Travel Guide: Koubou Website

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◘◘ Walk round Minatopia

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

Address: 2-10 Yanagishima

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◘◘ Stroll via town’s essential buying avenue

Make your means in direction of the Bandai and/or Furumachi space to take your time in selecting the locations you’ll eat and store in — in addition to, they’ve an array of fantastic alternatives so that you can select from!

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◘◘ Check in to Hotel Nikko

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

We made our means out of town for this present day of my Niigata itinerary to do the next:

◘◘ Explore and choose fruits at Shirone Grape Garden

This institution is filled with greenhouses that organically develop a number of sorts of fruits resembling kiwis, persimmons (a should to attempt as a result of it was soooo good!), grapes, peaches, strawberries, and extra. And relying on the time of your go to, you may choose fruits for FREE!

To cap off your go to, be sure that to attempt their standard gelatos that are all made out of pure components.

Transport & Travel Guide: Kudamonogari

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◘◘ Stop by Yahiko Shrine

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

Experience 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 disregarded on a wood field close to the shrine with a value label on it (it’s sometimes 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 ‘excellent luck’. My information stated that I ought to make full use of it and do issues like shopping for lottery tickets, and so on. haha!

Travel Directions Guide: Go over to Niigata station, take the Echigo Line that goes to the path of Yoshida (各停). Stop at Yoshida station (14 stops whole) and alter to a unique line, Yahiko Line that heads to Yahiko (各停). Stop at Yahiko Station (2 stops whole).

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◘◘ Dine at Cave D’Occi Winery

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 (scorching spring bathtub), and a visitor home (for guests who wish to spend extra time exploring the vineyards).

Make positive to purchase or attempt their wines since they style actually good!

Transport & Travel Guide: 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.

Basically, Tsubame-Sanjo is among the most sought-after Japanese manufacturers in the case of metalworks or objects as a consequence of their prime quality and craftsmanship; so, it’s positively value your time to take a peek right here.

Transport & Travel Guide: TsubameSanjo Website

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◘◘ Walk round Minamiuonuma

This metropolis is a well-liked winter vacation spot as a consequence of its excellent location. Once there, you’ll have a alternative 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.

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

Transport & Travel Guide: Minamiuonuma Website

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◘◘ Check right into a ryokan resembling Hotel Futaba

If you need the most effective ryokan (Japanese inn) keep that you may ever expertise, try Hotel Futaba!

If you’ve bought some extra additional time for you Niigata itinerary, I extremely suggest the next:

◘◘ Go to Ponshukan

Ponshukan will 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 accessible, you simply have to purchase a cup value ¥500 solely, put a plastic token within the machine’s coin slot, slip in your cup, after which it will likely be stuffed to the brim with sake. If unsure, there are employees individuals who would gladly help you!
  • Sake store: are you fairly on the lookout for bottles of sake? Next door is a sake store that has over 96 varieties.
  • Shopping space: there are numerous small stalls across the Ponshukan corridor that supply varied items from sweets to souvenirs.
  • Onsen: if you’d like a singular form of onsen expertise, subsequent door can also be an onsen however what units it other than typical onsens is that you may dip right here in sake!!
  • Guinness World Record: If you go deep inside Ponshukan, you can find a store that has the biggest show of handmade stuffed toys (11,655) which are tied via strings. This was achieved by Incorporated Non-Profit Organization Japan Tsurushi-bina Association and Akira Kitano final 2012.

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◘◘ Drop by Niigata Furusato Village

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

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

Dubbed “Japan’s 100 best 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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◘◘ Visit Yahiko Park (Maple Valley)

Best to do in Autumn. When within the Yahiko Village space, be sure that to drop by Yahiko Park. Here, you can find nice sceneries that fantastically categorical each 4 seasons. Autumn season is definitely the most effective time to come back right here as a result of the vermillion-lacquered Kan-tsuki Bridge completely blends in with all the scorching colours.

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

Best to do in Winter (December to May). This resort is alleged to be the primary in Japan to be designated as a world ski resort. You can do loads of actions right here: snowboarding and 11 trails (longest at 4km amongst many others. There is even a particular space referred to as the Chibikko Hiroba which is for kids who’re too younger to hit the slopes.

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◘◘ Attend at the least one (1) Niigata occasion or pageant

Some of probably the most fascinating ones are…

  • Sake no Jin (Niigata Sake Festival): Held mid-March, because the land of sake, that is considered one of Niigata’s main occasions. At this pageant, you may pattern over 500 kinds of sake from roughly 90 native brewers! Just buy a tasting ticket and also you’re positive to have a good time via and thru!
  • Tokamachi Snow Festival: Sapporo is perhaps probably the most well-known snow pageant, however Niigata’s is definitely the oldest and possibly probably the most laid-back and genuine snow celebration as properly. Furthermore, with the heavy snowfall within the space, there isn’t any scarcity of sculptures which are dispersed throughout city! If you’re curious about witnessing this spectacle, you need to come on the third Saturday of February.
  • Oiran Dochu Courtesan Procession: Oirans not exist in Japan, however as a means 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 Project: Since Niigata is considered one of Japan’s main tulip producers, this occasion that’s held from April 29 to May 2 is the place members will create large “flower paintings” utilizing tulips that had been discarded within the strategy of bulb cultivation.
  • Nagaoka Festival: As per common, 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. Helpful to notice is that it’s thought-about one of many high 3 fireworks reveals in Japan since you’ll usually witness insane stuff like 650-meter large sanshakudama fireworks, waterfall shapes, volcano-like formations, and 20,000 smaller shakudama fireworks.
  • Niigata Festival: Lasting for 3 days beginning on August 7, you will note loads of float parades, firework shows, and dance processions (that usually contain round 20,000 folks)!
  • Earth Festival: 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 contains varied occasions in an open-air live performance fashion.


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