The Beauty of Niigata Prefecture

From 26 February until 11 March 2022, Japan Centre will be hosting a Niigata Fair at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Japan Centre Ichiba Westfield London, and Japan Centre Online. We will have exclusive handpicked products of Niigata Prefecture which is famous for its snowy mountain tops, including regional products such as drip coffee bags, hegi soba noodles, fruit juices, kiri mochi, umeshu and more. Join us for the next 2 weeks to learn more about this nature-filled incredible prefecture, its history, culture, and the artisan products Niigata produces.

Located on Japan’s main island, Honshu, Niigata is found in 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 by super-express bullet train (shinkansen) and with so much to do in Niigata, you’ll definitely be travelling around a lot – from enjoying a relaxing soak in the outdoor baths of Murakami City to touring sake breweries in Niigata City.

Marvel at the beauty of Takada Park

Takada Park is one of the historical parks of Japan and is on an ancient moat that is full of lotuses and thousands of cherry blossom trees. In the summer, the Cherry Blossom Festival is held, where over a million people travel from across Japan to appreciate the beautiful cherry blossom trees and the food stalls, which are lit up with lights that reflect off the water. There is also an observatory that you can enter to see the views from above,  where once stood Takada Castle, an Edo period Japanese castle.

Enjoy expertly crafted sake

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

Niigata has a variety of sake breweries to tour, including the Imayotsukasa Brewery (今代司), one of the only junmai sake 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 and Agano rivers, flowing directly through Niigata Prefecture out to the Sea of Japan, Niigata has been graced with a bounty of seasonal seafood. Thanks to the port town of Niigata City, local seafood dishes rotate through an impressive selection consisting of Alaskan pink shrimp (nanban ebi), rosy seabass (nodoguro), yanagi flounder (yanagi-mushi), spear squid (yari-ika), and cinnamon flounder (funabeta).

A speciality of Niigata, the kiwami sushi course, provides ten pieces of high-grade sushi, including seasonal fish, tuna (uni), roe (ikura) all for around 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 beautiul onsen views

After Hokkaido and Nagano, Niigata boasts the most hot springs (onsen) of any prefecture in Japan. Spread across the whole of the prefecture, there are around 150 onsen, providing views of verdant mountains and the majestic Sea of Japan.

The crown jewel of the onsen kingdom is the rotenburo, 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, Chuetsu, and Kaetsu regions and hot spring inns (onsen ryokan) in close vicinity, there is never a lack of opportunities to relax, unwind and have fun for locals and visitors 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, 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 in Joetsu or the ‘108 Lanterns’ in Uonuma.

Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively, you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.