Niigata / Sado
Bordered by the great Shinanogawa and Agano rivers, Niigata thrived both as a major maritime transportation hub as well as a center of cultural and gourmet growth. Niigata is famed for its abundance of seafood provided by the Sea of Japan and for its superb sake, brewed from locally grown rice. The natural beauty of Sado Island, brimming with traditional culture, is just a 60-minute jetfoil ride from Niigata Bay. Only 2 hours and 5 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, Niigata is a one of a kind destination.
This museum is housed in a resplendent Japanese-style mansion, the former family residence of the preeminent landowner in the region. Take a peek at the more than 65 rooms where this wealthy farming family once lived and stroll around the beautiful Japanese garden. From the cherry blossoms of spring to the richly colored leaves of autumn you can enjoy nature's splendor year round.
(10 minutes from Niitsu Station by taxi)
When it comes to Niigata sushi, these shops serve the best-of-the-best. From tuna to caviar to sea urchin, the menu is chosen daily from only the freshest locally caught fish by the discerning eye of a sushi master. Try ten of the highest quality selections for only 3000 yen. If you're looking for the very best seafood that the Sea of Japan offers, then this is the place to be.
(Many locations in the Niigata Station area)
Have your fill of Niigata's own rice and sake at this museum located inside Echigoyuzawa Station. The highlight is a well-stocked tasting room featuring 96 kinds of sake from which to sample. You can even take a dip in a sake hot spring bath for the full experience!
(Directly connected to Echigoyuzawa Station)
Hop aboard this authentic steam locomotive and enjoy a leisurely journey through the mountains. Surrounded by picturesque scenery, the SL Banetsu Monogatari runs from Niigata to Aizuwakamatsu on the West Banetsu Line.
The "Kirakira Uetsu" Joyful Train runs between Niigata and Sakata giving great views of the sparkling Sea of Japan and a bucolic landscape that is home to the area's rice production. Be sure to try out the conductor's special boxed lunch, the "Kirakira Uetsu Bento."
Home to a traditional culture, this verdant island on the Sea of Japan is just 60 minutes from Niigata by the Sado Steam Ship jetfoil. Named after an offshore crag resembling two turtles, the nearby Futatsugame beach is a great place for a dip in the sea. At Ogi Port you can take a ride in a taraibune, a tub-shaped wooden fishing boat still used to this day. The Sado Gold Mine, once the leading producer of gold and silver in Japan, is a great field trip destination. And every June locals from around the island perform nighttime Noh theater by firelight. (60 minutes to Sado Island on the Sado Kisen Jet Foil. Departs from the Niigata Port Sado Kisen Ferry Terminal accessible by bus from Niigata Station.)