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Japan Regional Information

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A range of 2,000 meter-class steep mountains
Abundant hot springs and ski resorts
Niigata prefecture is situated in the center of the Japanese mainland, a vertically long prefecture that meets the Japan Sea. It prospered as a foothold of the Japan Sea transportation from the Edo period in the 17th and 18th centuries, and after the 19th century, developed as a trading base with Russia and Korea. With Echigo Mountain Range in the southeastern part of the prefecture as its core, 2,000 meter-class mountains stand one after another to form a stretch of highlands. The areas between mountains, which maintain the beautiful nature, are dotted with ski resorts and hot springs. Shinano-gawa River, which flows from the mountains to the Japan Sea, boasts being the longest river in Japan. Around the Shinano-gawa River basin is a spread of fertile land called the Niigata Plains, and rice farming is successfully carried out here. On the Japan Sea is the biggest island in Japan, Sadoga-shima Island, on which much gold was found during the Edo period.

Niigata is home to many leading sake labels in Japan, and their sake is made of high quality rice and water. There are many restaurants where you can take pleasure in the sake with fresh seafood, naturally making Niigata a region where you can enjoy the Japanese taste and tradition to your heart's content. The center of Niigata's administration and economy is Niigata City. It is a beautiful city of water with Shinano-gawa River running through it and the Japan Sea on the northwestern side. Since the 19th century it prospered as a port of trade with foreign countries.

Getting there
About 2 hours from Tokyo Station to Niigata Station by JR Jyoetsu Shinkansen Line. About 1 hour 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Niigata Airport.

  • Echigo-Yuzawa
    A hot spring resort surrounded by mountains
    Especially popular for skiing and hiking
    Echigo-Yuzawa is located in the southernmost of Niigata and adjoining Nagano and Gunma. It is a historic hot spring resort, which appears in the well-known novel The Snow Country written by the Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. The place also has a good transportation service particularly from the metropolitan area so that it attracts a lot of people for skiing in winter and for hiking and camping in summer. At the Echigo-no-osake Museum (Sake Museum) inside of the Echigo-Yuzawa Station, you can enjoy bathing in the sake spa (a hot spring with sake). And around the station you will find museums such as Yuzawa-cho Shiro Shirahata (Universal Mountains Pictorial Museum) that has around 170 landscapes of the world famous mountains, and also Yuzawa-cho Rekishi Minzoku Shiryo Kan (Folklore History Museum).

    By taking the Yuzawa-onsen ropeway from Sanroku Station (at the foot of the mountain), you can go up to 1,000 m above sea level. Around the Sancho Station (at the top of the mountain), there is Alp-no-sato, the alpine plants garden, where you can enjoy Mizubasho (skunk cabbages) in the spring, Nikkokisuge (a kind of yellow lily) in summer and autumn leaves of Japanese larch trees in autumn. Also, Echigo-Yuzawa is covered in snow in winter and attracts many skiers.

    Getting there
    By JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line for 1 hour and 10 minutes from Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station. From Osaka, by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station first, the journey time to Echigo-Yuzawa in total is 3 hours and 40 minutes.


  • Kasugayama
    The ruins of the Castle serve as a place of recreation and relaxation
    A shrine where a branch of the God of Kasuga-taisha Shrine is enshrined
    Kasugayama is located in the hill country of northwest Takada, in the west part of Niigata. General Uesugi Kenshin had Kasugayama Castle built in the 16th century and from there he brought almost every part of Niigata, which was called Echigo in his time, under his control. The castle's remnants, such as the forts and outer walls, are preserved almost perfectly and now serve as a place of recreation and relaxation for the citizens of Takada.

    Nearby is Kasugayama-joshi Monogatari Kan, a museum next to the castle, which exhibits the history of Kasugayama Castle: such as the life of Uesugi Kenshin, and old drawings of the castle. Around the museum there are many places that are remembered in connection with Kenshin such as Rinsen-ji Temple, which was founded by Kenshin's grandfather, Kasuga-jinja Shrine where a branch of the God of Kasuga-taisha Shrine in Nara is enshrined and also Gochi-kokubun-ji Temple, said to have been restored by Kenshin.

    Sometime between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Kasugayama-jinja Shrine was constructed with donations in order to worship Kenshin. In the shrine, there is a treasury where the articles left by Kenshin such as the battle flags and his battle weapons and armor are kept.

    Getting there
    By JR Nagano Shinkansen Line for 1 hour and 55 minutes from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station, then by JR Shinetsu Main Line from Nagano Station to Kasugayama Station for 1 hour and 30 minutes. From Osaka, by a Limited Express on JR Hokuriku Main Line from Osaka Station to Naoetsu Station for 4 hours and 40 minutes then by JR Shinetsu Main Line for 5 minutes to Kasugayama Station.


  • Mt. Naeba and Akiyama-go
    The east side of Mt. Naeba is a popular ski area
    Hot spring resorts where oil lamps are still used instead of electricity
    Mt. Naeba is at the border of Niigata and Nagano, the midsection of Honshu, and is massive 2,145 meters high. The top of the mountain has a 4 sq. km plateau known for gregarious alpine plants. The east outskirts of Mt. Naeba have been made into extensive ski resorts including Naeba, Kagura-mitsumata and Mikuni, that are very popular especially among families and young people. In the surroundings there are authentic Japanese style spas such as Kaikake-onsen Hot Spring, whose history goes back 700 years and also Akayu-onsen Hot Spring where oil lamps are still used instead of electricity.

    The west outskirts of Mt. Naeba have an old hideout area called Akiyama-go. It is said that Akiyama-go was a haven for soldiers who lost battles against Genji, the Kamakura Shogunate, and was established in the 12th century. Akiyama-go is also known as an area with heavy snow. The twelve villages of Akiyama-go are scattered around the Nakatsu-gawa River valley and are on the slope of the mountain with trees that shelters them from snow and this multi-layered and cultivated land is one of the unexplored regions of Japan. Also, you can see the tools and daily necessities used back in 19th and 20th century at the Akiyama-go Minzoku Shiryo Kan Folklore Museum.

    Getting there
    By JR Jyoetsu Shinkansen Line for 1 hour and 10 minutes from Tokyo Station to Echigo-yuzawa Station. By bus for 48 minutes from Echigo-yuzawa Station to Naeba Prince Hotel bus stop and 50 minutes to Akiyama-go bus stop. From Osaka, by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line from Osaka Station to Tokyo Station first, then the same route to Echigo-yuzawa Station for 3 hours and 40 minutes in total.


  • Mt. Yahiko
    From the summit of the observation tower you have a great view
    Mt. Yahiko is a volcano, which is located in the central west part of Niigata close to the Japan Sea shore. Yahiko-mura is located at the east foot of Mt. Yahiko, right in the middle of the Sado Yahiko Quasi-national Park. Also Yahiko-mura has been developed as the front town of Yahiko-jinja Shrine.

    Yahiko-jinja Shrine is located on the east foot of Mt. Yahiko. The palaces of the shrine were rebuilt back in the early 20th century and its back faces against Mt. Yahiko, which is the object of worship. This shrine stands in a dense forest and is considered by many as the best shrine in the Echigo region. The special hen farm in the precinct keeps a kind of Naganaki-tori hen (Toumaru) and it is open to the public.

    The Yahiko Sanjo Park has a mini-amusement park and a restaurant with a view. You can take the ropeway to the park from Sanroku Station, which is an 8-minute walk from the Yahiko-jinja Haiden, the front shrine. The panoramic observation tower at the summit goes up and down, slowly turning around at the same time. From here you can enjoy a great view of the Echigo Plains and Sado-ga-shima Island.

    Getting there
    By JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line for 1 hour and 50 minutes from Tokyo Station to Tsubame-Sanjo Station. By Yahiko Line for 20 minutes from Tsubame-Sanjo Station to Yakiko Station. From Osaka, take JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Tokyo Station first and then to Tsubame-Sanjyo Station for 4 hours and 20 minutes in total.


  • Myoko Heights
    The hot spring resort in the outskirts of Mt. Myoko
    One of the greatest ski areas in the country
    Myoko Heights stretches out to the eastern outskirts of Mt. Myoko in the southeastern part of Niigata. It is a popular summer resort because of the cool climate. Mt. Myoko is the highest peak of the Myoko volcano range and is surrounded by the outer rim of the crater, Mt. Akakura, Mt. Mae, and Mt. Kanna. Jigoku-dani valley between Mt. Myoko and Mt. Mae is the rich source of the hot springs.

    The water of the hot springs is taken from Jigoku-dani Valley and provided to Myoko-onsen hot spring resort which consists of eight spas: Akakura, Shin-Akakura, Ikenodaira, Suginosawa, Myoko, Seki, Tsubame and Matsugamine. Also there are nine skiing grounds on the grand slope of the foothills of Mt. Myoko that is known as one of the best ski areas in the country. This place can get very busy and lively with many skiers during the winter season.

    Tenshin Okakura, a pioneer of Japanese modern arts, and once the president of Tokyo Art School (today's Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music), loved Myoko for its richness of nature so much that he built a mountain villa here in his later years. Within its site, Okakura Tenshin Do, which imitated Yumedono of Horyu-ji Temple was built and there is a gold-gilt statue of Tenshin in it.

    Getting thereBy JR Nagano Shinkansen Line from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station. Then by JR Shinetsu Main Line to Myoko-kogen Station, for a total of 2 hours and 35 minutes. From Osaka, by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line for 1 hour from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station, by JR Chuo Line Limited Express to Nagano Station and by JR Shinetsu Main Line to Myoko-kogen Station for a total of 3 hours and 35 minutes.


  • Niigata City
    At the aquarium you can see around 450 kinds of 20,000 sea creatures
    The Tsurui Museum of Arts exhibits masterpieces of Japanese modern art
    The city of Niigata is located in the northern part of the Chubu region and is the capital for both the economy and politics of Niigata Prefecture. It is a beautiful city, which faces the Japan Sea on the northwest side. Niigata city has population of 500,000 and has flourished as a trading port with foreign countries since 19th century.

    The city branches into two districts, the new township near Niigata Station and the old town where the government and municipal offices lie on the north side of Shinano-gawa River. The Bandai-bashi Bridge connects those two towns. From the Bandai City Rainbow Tower in the new town you can see entire view of Niigata from 100 m above ground. The new township also has the Tsurui Museum of Arts, which exhibits masterpieces of Japanese modern art. In the old town on the other hand, there are places where many historical documents of Niigata port are displayed. One of those is the Niigata-shi Godo Shiryokan Folklore Museum that was established in 1869 and which has become a national important cultural asset in its own right. There is also the Niigata Kensei Shiryo Kan Memorial Hall of Politics which has a veranda modeled on the Houses of Parliament in England and the octagonal spire in the Renaissance style. Moreover, there is a city aquarium called Marinpia Nihonkai where you can see around 450 kinds of 20,000 sea creatures such as dolphins and sea otters, and it is a very popular place for visitors of the city.

    Getting there
    By JR Jyoetsu Shinkansen Line for 2 hours from Tokyo Station to Niigata Station. An hour and 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Niigata Airport.


  • Oku-Tadami and Ginzan-daira
    An silver mine lies at the bottom of Japan's largest man-made lake
    Mt. Hakkai is a scenic spot and a sacred place of mountain worship
    Oku-Tadami is located at the upper stream of Tadami-gawa River, which has Oze-numa marsh of Gunma as its source, and forms a part of the Echigo Sanzan Tadami Quasi-national Park. In the middle of the Edo era in the 18th century, the silver mine in this area was the backbone of the economy, together with the gold mine in Sado. Ginzan-daira is located at the west tip of Lake Oku-tadami-ko and it was once a town for the excavation of silver and had more than 1,000 houses. However, they made the largest man-made lake in the country here, Lake Okutadami-ko, and the village now lies at the bottom of the lake.

    There are sightseeing boat tours of 40-minutes from the Oku-tadami-dam to Oze-guchi. The cable car like Slope Car runs between the last bus stop and the dam. In the surroundings, you will find Mt. Komaga-dake on the west of the Kurobe Canyon and Mt. Hakkai, which is a scenic spot and a sacred place of mountain worship, hot spring resorts such as Tochiomata-onsen or Komano-yu-onsen, and skiing grounds such as the Oyu-onsen ski area.

    Getting there
    By JR Jyoetsu Shinkansen Line for 1 hour and 35 minutes from Tokyo Station to Urasa Station. By JR Jyoetsu Line for 8 minutes to Koide Station from Urasa Station. Then by the Echigo-Kotsu bus from Oku-tadami Silver Line Koide Station to Oku-tadami dam for 40 minutes. From Osaka, by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line for 4 hours and 5 minutes form Shin-Osaka Station to Urasa Station, transferring at Tokyo Station.


  • Sado-ga-shima Island
    The biggest island in the country known for the gold mine
    Merged culture with aristocracy, samurai and tradesmen
    Sado-ga-shima Island is located 45 km west of Niigata, in the northern part of the Chubu region. It is the biggest island in Japan and its periphery is around 227 km and it has an area of about 857 sq. km. It consists of two parallel mountain ranges: the Kimpoku and Kunimi Mountains and between them lies the Kuninaka Plains. Together they form a part of the Sado Yahiko Quasi-national Park. On the island, the aristocratic culture had flourished since the 8th century, because people who had lost due to political rivalry or who were oppressed for their political ideas and activities were exiled here by the government. Also during the Edo era in the17 and 18th centuries, samurai and tradesmen who worked by mining gold created a culture unique to the island, including some traditional arts and entertainment such as Mumyoi-yaki (earthenware of clay with carbon dioxide), Sado-okesa Dance, Sado-noh Dance and puppet play.

    Sado-ga-shima Island has many exhibitions, such as the Sado-kinzan (gold mine) that shows the reproduction of gold mining in the 17th century and 18th century with miniatures and electric-powered dolls. Senkaku Bay has a beautiful view of the precipitous cliffs. Also there is Lake Kamo-ko where you can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring. Niibo-mura village has Toki-no-mori Koen Park where you can see rare Japanese crested ibises.

    Getting there
    By JR Jyoetsu Shinkansen Line for 2 hours from Tokyo Station to Niigata Station. From Osaka, fly for 1 hour and 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Niigata Airport and then fly for 25 minutes from Niigata Airport to Sado Airport. Or, take the Jetfoil for 1 hour from Niigata Port to Ryotsu Port.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.


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