Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Niigata
Population
2,475,724

Niigata

Honshu's snow country

The rice is right in Niigata prefecture where there's skiing in winter, festivals in summer and sake all year round.

Benefiting from the heaviest snowfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu, Niigata is known for its top-notch winter resorts featuring long gondolas and historic hot springs, like Tsubame Onsen. But the snow also blesses the prefecture with another famous attraction — rice. When spring comes, the snow melts bringing nutrient-rich water from the mountains down to the paddy fields and creating the perfect conditions for some of the fluffiest grains you’ll ever taste. Of course, where there’s rice, there’s also sake (rice wine) and happily, the prefecture has plenty of opportunities to sample the national drink; you can drink it, eat it and even bathe in it.

See the autumn leaves at Daigenta Lake in Niigata.

Pack some Niigata rice balls for a picnic and hike around Daigenta Lake.

Niigata City is the bustling prefectural capital, spit in two by Japan’s longest river, the Shinanogawa, and bordered by the Sea of Japan. Stock up on fresh seafood and premium rice — you can taste the difference — and enjoy the enormous range of locally brewed sake (there are 100 breweries in the city).

In March, the city hosts the annual Sake-no-jin, a kind of Oktoberfest but with sake instead of beer.

Visitors can sample more than 500 types at the fair and enjoy performances, seminars and other sake-related entertainment.

Just across the water from Niigata city is Sado island, reachable with a one-hour jetfoil or two-hour ferry. A former place of exile for political dissidents, nowadays its mountains, beaches and delicious persimmons attract crowds of urban escapees. In August, you can catch the Earth Celebration, a music and arts festival hosted by the famous Kodo Drummers.

Niigata Sake

Raise your glass for a kanpai (cheers) with Niigata’s quality sake.

Another big festival is Fuji Rock, a three-day international music extravaganza that draws more than 100,000 people to the scenic ski resort of Naeba in late July. It’s a huge event, with several stages featuring foreign and Japanese acts, as well as fantastic food, workshops, a fairground and surprisingly clean toilets. In the winter, Naeba’s slopes are the starting point for the world’s longest gondola which links four ski resorts across the mountains and some of the season’s highest quality powder.

From Tokyo, it’s a fast and cheap bullet train to the enormous JR Echigo-Yuzawa station which has its own onsen and sake tasting bar. On March 29, 2016, the new Genbi bullet train launched – basically a contemporary art gallery on very fast wheels, allowing passengers to revel in the masterful scenery both inside and outside the train. Mind blown.

Places to visit

Sado Island in Niigata

Sado Island

A little nihonshu, nature and... De Niro? Plus taiko drums!

Saishoji Temple in Niigata, Japan.

The Mummy at Saisho-ji Temple

The oldest Buddhist mummy in Japan.


Tsubame onsen in Niigata, Japan is tattoo-friendly

Tsubame Onsen

Refresh in this hot spring village with secluded outdoor hot baths that even include a mixed-gender bath.

Sado Island Earth Celebration

Every August, it's the beautiful island's main event: A post-hippie island drum fest.


Yahiko

A little village with big things happening: Lantern festies and a hike the height of Tokyo SkyTree.

5 Famous Foods You’ll Find in Niigata

There's more here than rice! These goodies don’t just taste good; they leave you with a good feeling.


Lovers Point in Niigata

Declare your undying love — or just enjoy the view.

Tokamachi Snow Festival

Sippin' sake and seeing snow sculptures at Japan’s original snow festival.


Niigata Manga Animation Museum

Niigata Manga Animation Museum

Learn the secrets of manga creation.

Take a dip in this piping hot outdoor bath at Hinanoyado Chitose.

Matsunoyama Onsen

Where the snow is heavy and the hot springs are extra hot.


Echigo Yuzawa

Join the pilgrimage to the snow mecca on Japan’s main island!

Ma-Yansong-MAD-Architects-Light-Cave-Photo-Osamu-Nakamura

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale

When art meets nature and stays there for a while... Only every three years!


Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

One of Japan’s Top 3 displays.

Senkakuwan Bay

Feed seagulls while you admire Sado Island’s rugged coastline.


Takada Park

Find out the reason why this park is one of Japan’s Top 3 cherry blossom viewing spots.

Ikenotaira Onsen Ski Resort

As GaijinPot’s 2018 top destination — this hot spring and ski resort is a sporty spot in the beautiful Niigata Prefecture.


Hokusetsu Sake Brewery

Rice wine matured with music? This is what sake dreams are made of...

Echigo Hillside Park

Get lost in this huge flower haven twice the size of Tokyo's Yoyogi Park with festivals and events in every season.


Sado Island Taiko Center (Tatakokan)

Experience taiko drumming for yourself on Niigata's famous island.

Sanjo Kaji Dojo (Blacksmith Workshop)

This location is in Niigata Prefecture —  GaijinPot Travel’s No. 1 place to visit in 2018!  The Japanese are well-known for their serious and meticulous work attitude. Visitors to Sanjo Kaji Dojo (Blacksmith Workshop) can...


Bijin Bayashi Forest

A ballroom of ladies veiled in the silhouettes of century-old beech trees.

Ponshukan

From sake vending machines to sake baths, immerse yourself in Niigata’s famous produce from 3 convenient locales.


Akasakayama Park

As you gaze into the intricate layers of trees, hold tight to your green tea. This park has way more in store than your average green space.

Myoko Kogen

Just looking for a day on the ski slopes then a dip in the hot springs? Myoko’s got nine ski resorts and seven hot springs waiting for you.


Naena Falls in Niigata.

Naena Falls

A recommended nature spot in any season, plus the Japanese tradition of "flowing noodles."  

Kiyotsu gorge

Kiyotsukyo Gorge

Massive lava rock formations surround you, as you tunnel your way to the best panoramic view.


Joetsu

If you're a looking to do a little of everything — from traditional festivals to spiritual mountain hikes to trying out a sake flight — get here.

Niigata Rice Terrace

Hoshitoge Rice Terrace

With the sunrise, it becomes a fairytale.


YoneYama

Mount Yoneyama

A spiritual hike up Niigata’s guardian of prosperity.

Sado Island’s Tarai Bune Rides

A boating experience straight out of a ‘Spirited Away’ scene

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Monkeys bathing in the onsen in Nagano

Nagano

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Lake Kurobe in Toyama Prefecture

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View of Mt Fuji Yamanashi Prefecture

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Pack a prized Yamanashi piece of fruit in your camping bag and head for the hills.

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