5 Things We Love About Niigata

Moving on from Ehime (愛媛県), our regional fair has now arrived at Niigata Prefecture (新潟県), located in the Chuubu region of Japan (中部地方) and we can’t wait to show what this beautiful region has to offer. Here at Japan Centre, we’re proud to bring you the best artisanal products from a prefecture blessed with natural splendour in our Niigata Fair (新潟県フェア). So without further ado, let’s explore the wonders of the breathtaking prefecture!

Why Niigata Prefecture?

Located on Japan’s main island, Honshu (本州), Niigata is found in almost the geographical centre of the Japanese archipelago and offers four distinct seasons – with regional events running all year round. Located just an hour away from Tokyo (東京) by super-express bullet train (新幹線) and with so much to do in Niigata, you’ll definitely be travelling a lot – from enjoying a relaxing soak in the outdoor baths of Murakami City (村上市) to touring sake breweries in Niigata City (新潟市).

Whether you go for the wide-reaching mountains, beautiful coastline, seasonal seafood or the festivals, there’s a little something for everyone in Niigata. By purchasing a JR Rail Pass before you visit Japan you’ll not only save yourself the trouble of queueing for tickets but also save money on your Japanese travel adventure.

Expertly Crafted Sake

High-quality rice as a result of the smooth water that flows through Niigata’s mountains and the techniques of skilled craftsmen all contribute to why Niigata is considered one of the best prefectures to produce sake. Niigata sake is noted to have a tanrei-style (淡麗辛口, dry taste) with little in the way of characteristics, making it richly diverse in its offerings.

With a wide variety of sake breweries to tour such as the Imayotsukasa Brewery (今代司), one of the only junmai sake (純米) breweries left in Japan, or Kikizake Bansho (利き酒番所) for a standing drinking tour of a plethora of sake, you’ll not only learn about the basics of sake-making but also the history and culture behind the process, topping it all off with tasting sessions and a renewed appreciation of the traditional craft.

Outrageously Good Sushi

With two of Japan’s major rivers, the Shinano (信濃川) and Agano (阿賀野川) rivers, flowing directly through the Niigata Prefecture out to the Sea of Japan (日本海), Niigata has been graced with a bounty of seasonal seafood. Thanks to the port town of Niigata City (新潟市), local seafood dishes rotate through an agonisingly good selection consisting of Alaskan pink shrimp (南蛮エビ, nanban ebi), rosy seabass (のどぐろ, nodoguro), yanagi flounder (柳虫, yanagi-mushi), spear squid (槍烏賊, yari-ika), and cinnamon flounder (ふなべた, funabeta).

A speciality of Niigata, the kiwami sushi (極み寿司) course provides ten pieces of high-grade sushi, including seasonal fish, tuna (ウニ, uni), roe (いくら, ikura) all for 3000 yen, including a bowl of soup. Not only do the toppings on the course change with the seasons, but due to the seaside nature of Niigata, a number of sushi restaurants all over the prefecture offer the menu at the same price.

The Onsen Kingdom

After Hokkaido (北海道) and Nagano (長野), Niigata boasts the most hot springs of any prefecture in Japan. Littered across the whole of the prefecture, there are some 150 onsen (温泉) providing views of verdant mountains and the majestic Sea of Japan.

The crown jewel of the onsen kingdom is the rotenburo (露天風呂) – the outdoor bath. Beautiful scenery and the therapeutic effects of the onsen water paired with the gentle breeze of the wind makes for an evening dip to remember. Enjoying the local cuisine after spending some time in an onsen only enhances the hot spring experience – making Niigata a prime location for anyone who wants to feel closer to nature.

No Need to Dream of a White Winter

Thanks to an assortment of snow-capped mountains and numerous ski resorts, Niigata is a true winter wonderland. With resorts scattered around the Joetsu (上越地方), Chuetsu (中越地方), and Kaetsu (下越地方) regions and hot spring inns (温泉旅館, onsen ryokan) in close vicinity, there is never a lack of opportunities to relax, unwind and have fun for locals and foreigners alike.

Brilliantly white winters not only lend themselves to perfect skiing conditions but also welcome in winter activities such as illuminations and the Tokamachi Snow Festival (十日町雪まつり), held every February. For those looking for a comforting walk through an enchanting ice-scape, look no further than the Yasuzuka Snow Festival Candle Road (安塚キャンドルロード) in Joetsu (上越市) or the ‘108 Lanterns’ (百八灯) in Uonuma (魚沼市).

Sunny Days and Even Brighter Nights

Hot summer nights in Niigata are home to near-weekly fireworks festivals, lighting up the sky in impressive spreads of colour. Known as the ‘Big Three Fireworks of Echigo‘, the coastal Kashiwazaki (柏崎), riverside Nagaoka (長岡), and inland Katakai (片貝) fireworks festivals are known throughout the whole of Japan, drawing thousands of people from all over the nation every year.

The Gion Kashiwazaki Matsuri Fireworks Festival (ぎおん柏崎まつり 海の大花火大会), the Nagaoka Matsuri Fireworks Festival (長岡まつり大花火大会) and the Katakai Matsuri (片貝まつり) are the festivals that make Niigata’s summer itinerary so special; from beautiful star fireworks over the sea at the Gion Kashiwazaki Matsuri to the world’s largest diameter fireworks (four-shaku; 120cm) at the Katakai Matsuri, summer in Niigata is not just about natural beauty, but man-made spectacle too.

Find out more about our range of exclusive Niigata goods in-store at Panton Street, Ichiba Westfield London, Japan Centre Stratford and online!