Not sure what to visit when you’re in Japan but you don’t want to travel too far away from Tokyo? I got you covered! Just a 2 hour ride by shinkansen and you arrive in a very special city: Niigata! Not many tourists visit this place but it’s definitely worth it and I’m gonna tell you why that is.
First of all the ride itself is amazing, you have a chance to travel with the “Max Toki” shinkansen which is a double decker shinkansen. Maybe not that useful when you have a big suitcase, but I accepted the challenge! Also you travel right through the Japanese Alpes! I remember seeing lots of tall mountains with white tops on my right and seeing the sea on my left, a view you won’t experience very often.
Once you arrive at Niigata station you can go straight to Ponshukan building where you can taste around 90-100 varieties of sake. Niigata prefecture is known as the sake prefecture because of the many sake breweries it has. For 500 yen you get 5 coins to taste 5 kinds of sake but there is also some umeshu available, time to get drunk!
Leave the station and follow the road until you arrive at a bridge going over a very big river, this is the Bandai Bridge and the Shinano river. The bridge is an example of large-scale bridges built in the Showa period. It’s not that spectacular in architecture but it still gives a big impression since its length is almost 307 metres!
If you want to see Niigata from higher ground I recommend going to Toki Messe which is a conference centre which has the Befco Bakauke Observatory room. From this room you can see the how much water and how many mountains Niigata is surrounded with. On a clear day you might see Sado Island, which you can visit too. There is a really interesting gold mine but be aware that the boat doesn’t go that often and a bike would be useful too.
Since Niigata is located against the sea it has many beaches, it reminded me of the Dutch beaches except that it was really quiet. Just a group of friends celebrating a birthday. It was really nice to feel the sand and the sea between my toes on a hot day. It’s a bit of relaxation you need while you’re traveling. Another way of relaxation is visiting the Hakusan park where the Hakusan Shrine can be found. It is a very green park and there are lots of benches to rest on.
One last thing I recommend to go to is the Niigata City Aquarium. I read lots of reviews who said it was small but honestly I was amazed by how big it was and it was easy to find your way within the aquarium. There are penguins, dolphins, lots of fishes, sealions and many more sea creatures. I also attended every show I planned.
I’ve stayed in Niigata for 3 nights in a guesthouse and it was enough to do everything I mentioned above, but you can easily make a daytrip to Niigata too. I hope I convinced you to visit this beautiful city one day.