4 Days or Extra in Japan’s off the Crushed Path

From Tokyo, we took the “Toki” or “Max Tokishinkansen (bullet prepare) of the JR East’s Joetsu Shinkansen line within the morning.

You’ll be able to simply entry this prepare from Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, or Ōmiya Station (you’ll be able to verify Google Maps to map out your route with the intention to attain one in every of these 3 stations relying on the place you’re positioned in Tokyo).

Upon arrival…

◘◘ Eat hegisoba for lunch

That is one in every of Niigata’s native dishes and it’s principally a soba (Japanese buckwheat skinny noodles) that’s product of funori (seaweed) which is not like the everyday soba that makes use of wheat. Due to this, hegisoba has a clean but ‘al dente‘ texture that’s well-known among the many Japanese.

That is usually served on an oblong picket plate by which the noodles are already sectioned into particular person mouthful parts, thereby making it very simple to eat. How one can finest eat hegisoba? You might both eat it as is, or dip it within the mentsuyu (black-colored soup base that can be supplied to you) which you’ll additional taste with sesame seeds, radish, wasabi, or inexperienced onions.

Beneficial: Kojimaya CoCoLo Niigata (one department is positioned in Niigata station)

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◘◘ Go to Saitou Villa (features a geisha present and snacks)

It is a summer season villa that was constructed again in 1920 by a rich service provider in Niigata. In the present day, it’s a place used to welcome honored visitors within the metropolis resembling public figures, and celebrities; however extra generally, it’s a place that’s preserved and revered as a valued cultural constructing.

And for almost $26, you’ll be able to discover Saitou Villa’s room and gardens, style some Japanese sweets and matcha (inexperienced tea), AND be entertained by Furumachi geigi (geisha of Niigata). It is a steal in fact, particularly in the event you evaluate it to the costly price that it is advisable to pay simply to satisfy an actual geisha in a dinner banquet program (which is able to virtually be much like what you’ll expertise right here!).

So I say, it is a MUST to do in your Niigata itinerary!

Transport & Journey Information: Niigata Hanamachi Chaya
The Furumachi district of Niigata is taken into account one of many three most prestigious areas in Japan for geisha, together with Gion in Kyoto and Shinbashi in Tokyo. Therefore, witnessing Niigata’s geisha is a must-do!

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◘◘ Drop by Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery

Niigata is well-known for producing the best sake or nihonshu (Japanese liquor). Why so? Merely due to the snow. With the prefecture’s bountiful snowfall on its mountains, it has continuously yielded situations which can be good for making sake: purified air from fixed snowing and snow-melted waters (nice for rising rice paddies and brewing sake).

To finest get pleasure from this, head on ever to Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery as a result of you’ll be able to then go on a FREE tour of their institution as you study extra concerning the making of sake. What’s extra, you’ll be able to even style a few of their merchandise! (My favourite sake bottles are: Moto, Karyu-kai, and Junmai).

Transport & Journey Information: Imayotsukasa Web site

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◘◘ Seize dinner at an izakaya

Lengthen your enjoyment of Niigata’s high-quality sake by visiting a typical Japanese gastropub that’s known as an ‘izakaya‘.

Different Drinks to Attempt: umeshu (plum wine), biiru (Japanese beers), shōchū (distilled beverage) Dishes to Attempt: yakitori (grilled rooster skewers), karaage (Japanese fried rooster), sashimi (uncooked fish)

TRIVIA: Apparently, the Japanese usually prefer to seize ramen (noodle dish) after a protracted night time of consuming since it’s stated to assist them deal with the alcohol, in addition to assist them take care of a hangover in a while!

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◘◘ Test in to a resort within the metropolis

To cap off your first day on this Niigata itinerary, select from…
Luxurious: Lodge Nikko Niigata
Mid-Vary: Artwork Lodge Niigata Station or AirBnB
Price range: APA Lodge Niigata Higashinakadori

On today of my Niigata itinerary, we headed over to Sado Island which is part of the prefecture. With the intention to get right here, we took the Jetfoil jet boat with the route Niigata – Ryotsu and it departs each hour at a value of ¥6,520 yen. It takes about an hour to get to Sado Island from Niigata port with a quick boat like this.

If you would like cheaper choices, there are the opposite ferry routes:

  • Naoetsu–Ogi: ¥2,720 yen, 2.5 hours, 4-5 occasions each day
  • Teradomari–Akadomari: ¥2,960 yen, 2 hours, 2-3 occasions each day

When you arrive at Sado…

◘◘ Play at Sado Island’s Taiko Centre

A ‘taiko‘ is a standard Japanese percussion instrument, and one in every of Japan’s hottest taiko teams which can be additionally identified internationally is named Kodo. Hailing from Sado Island, they’ve constructed this enjoyable Tatakokan (Taiko Centre) in order that guests can have a hands-on expertise with Kodo instructors on find out how to play the taiko.

This was an expertise that I really loved and it’ll certainly be an much more enjoyable exercise in the event you include plenty of buddies or household!

Transport & Journey Information: Kodo Taiko

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◘◘ Attempt a tarai-bune (tub boat)

YES, you learn that proper! As seen within the lower-left photograph above, these cut-off barrels are a sort of tub boat that was sensible to make use of within the olden occasions with the intention to accumulate shellfish and seaweed from rocky coastal waters. In the present day, nonetheless, they’re primarily used to amuse vacationers on Sado Island.

Driving this boat really made me anxious (properly sure, it’s a ‘tub boat’ in spite of everything); relaxation assured, it’s completely protected and a completely enjoyable and fascinating factor to do!

Transport & Journey Information: You’ll be able to purchase this service on your Niigata itinerary from Ogi port or at Yajima-Kyojima space (which has extra scenic environment). They’re open each day all year long (8:30AM to five:00PM), spans for 10 minutes, can maintain 3 individuals on one tub boat, and prices ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for youngsters.

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◘◘ Decide up and produce residence some gold mud at Nishi-Mikawa gold park

When you head over to this hands-on museum on your Niigata itinerary, you’ll not solely study extra about Sado’s famed gold actions but in addition concerning the strategy of mining and refining it. The particular factor about this museum although is its epic gold-picking exercise!

For under ¥800 yen, you’ll be able to attempt gold panning for half-hour within the novices’ course space. Moreover, you’ll be able to hold the gold mud that you’ll find inside that timeframe! YES, you actually can take it residence.

Transport & Journey Information: Nishi-Mikawa Web site

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◘◘ Stroll round Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen-Park

It is a park that gives superb coastal sights over Senkaku-wan Bay. For one of the best 360 views, go to the neighborhood’s Ageshima Observatory and Yusenkyo Bridge.

Transport & Journey Information: Ageshima

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◘◘ Tour Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mine)

Financed by the Tokugawa shogunate for 388 years from 1601 to 1989, that is the island’s most essential historic web site — in reality, due to its wealthy historical past (being Japan’s largest gold mine in that period) it’s now actively promoted for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Website.

As soon as contained in the tunnels, you’ll see a number of exhibitions of robots that painting the miners throughout the Edo interval (as a approach of recreating the previous ambiance or look).

Transport & Journey Information: Sado Kinzan Web site

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◘◘ Test in to a resort or ryokan on the island

A quintessential journey to Japan is NOT full and not using a journey to a ryokan (Japanese conventional inn).

A few of the bucket listing issues to do as soon as booked inside one: sleep in a tatami-matted room, attempt the onsen (scorching spring baths), put on a yukata, and eat kaiseki (conventional multi-course Japanese dinner)!

Different selections are…
Luxurious: Lodge Azuma
Mid-Vary: Kohan no Yado Yoshidaya or AirBnB
Price range: Sado Bellemer Youth Hostel

On the third day of this Niigata itinerary, I rode a jet boat to get again to Niigata port and metropolis.

◘◘ Go see the Hoppō Bunka Hakubutsukan (Northern Tradition Museum)

That is an open-air museum that options the well-known mansion of Ito Bunkichi who was one of many best landowners in Niigata throughout the Edo Interval. Apart from the mansion, it additionally homes a picturesque backyard, art work, calligraphy works, ceramics, and a lot extra.

You might additionally eat lunch right here within the former kitchen of the Ito household in order that you might style typical native dishes that had been served again in these occasions!

Transport & Journey Information: Northern Cultural Museum Web site

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◘◘ Welcome your self into Niigata’s Senbei Okoku (Kingdom)

Rice is made throughout Japan, however it’s in Niigata the place you will discover the BEST-tasting rice that there can ever be within the nation. Naturally, senbei (rice cracker) manufacturing is successful in Niigata with Kuriyama Beika Group as one of the standard manufacturers.

It’s right here in Senbei Okoku the place they then provide its guests the possibility to style freshly-baked crackers, purchase a number of souvenirs, and see the precise cooking course of up shut. They even provide the possibility for individuals to make, roast, and design their very own rice crackers! It’s an pleasurable exercise for positive, particularly for households.

Transport & Journey Information: Senbei Web site

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◘◘ Make sasadango at Tanakaya Minato Kobo

Dango (sticky rice cake) is a well-liked conventional snack in Japan and in Niigata, they’ve their very own distinctive model known as ‘sasa dango’. Mainly, these are constructed from steamed and pounded glutinous rice with purple bean paste filling which is then wrapped and tied utilizing sasa (bamboo leaf).

As a remaining contact, it is going to be steamed altogether.

When you head over to Tanakaya Minato Kobo, other than tasting and taking it residence as a memento, you might additionally undergo a mini cooking class with the intention to discover ways to make sasadango!

Transport & Journey Information: Koubou Web site

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◘◘ Stroll round Minatopia

When you’re within the historical past of Niigata’s metropolis, visiting Minatopia is a should. Aside from the museum and constructing buildings (such because the Niigata Customs Home) within the space that explains the previous of the town, this spot can also be an amazing place for admiring the Shinano River.

Tackle: 2-10 Yanagishima

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◘◘ Stroll by way of the town’s major procuring avenue

Make your approach in the direction of the Bandai and/or Furumachi space to take your time in choosing the locations you’ll eat and store in — moreover, they’ve an array of great picks so that you can select from!

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◘◘ Test in to Lodge Nikko

I like to recommend Lodge Nikko as a result of it has an excellent 360 view over Niigata’s cityscape which will be simply seen not solely from inside your room but in addition from its topmost ground!

We made our approach out of the town for today of my Niigata itinerary to do the next:

◘◘ Discover and decide fruits at Shirone Grape Backyard

This institution is filled with greenhouses that organically develop a number of forms of fruits resembling kiwis, persimmons (a should to attempt as a result of it was soooo good!), grapes, peaches, strawberries, and extra. And relying on the time of your go to, you’ll be able to decide fruits for FREE!

To cap off your go to, ensure that to attempt their standard gelatos that are all constructed from pure substances.

Transport & Journey Information: Kudamonogari

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◘◘ Cease by Yahiko Shrine

Smacked in the midst of a lush forest and on the foot of a mountain, Yahiko Shrine in Yahiko Village is extensively adored and worshipped by the Japanese.

Expertise and observe the totally different shrines or Shinto practices right here! One fascinating factor you may as well do is purchase an omikuji which is a randomly written divination about your close to future. These are ignored on a picket field close to the shrine with a worth label on it (it’s usually self-serving like this). Pay the value, decide a folded paper from the field and see your fortune!

For the primary time, I drew a daikichi which meant ‘glorious luck’. My information stated that I ought to make full use of it and do issues like shopping for lottery tickets, and many others. haha!

Journey Instructions Information: Go over to Niigata station, take the Echigo Line that goes to the course of Yoshida (各停). Cease at Yoshida station (14 stops whole) and alter to a distinct line, Yahiko Line that heads to Yahiko (各停). Cease at Yahiko Station (2 stops whole).

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◘◘ Dine at Cave D’Occi Vineyard

Set within the plains of Kakudahama, Cave d’Occi Vinespa is a multipurpose vineyard resort that features not solely a restaurant however a spa, an onsen (scorching spring bathtub), and a visitor home (for guests who wish to spend extra time exploring the vineyards).

Make sure that to purchase or attempt their wines since they style actually good!

Transport & Journey Information: Docci Web site

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◘◘ Look by way of TsubameSanjo Regional Industries Promotion Centre

If you wish to purchase extra souvenirs from Niigata to take residence, making a cease by this heart needs to be up in your journey itinerary.

Mainly, Tsubame-Sanjo is among the most sought-after Japanese manufacturers in relation to metalworks or objects because of their top quality and craftsmanship; so, it’s undoubtedly value your time to take a peek right here.

Transport & Journey Information: TsubameSanjo Web site

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◘◘ Stroll round Minamiuonuma

This metropolis is a well-liked winter vacation spot because of its excellent location. As soon as there, you’ll have a alternative of over 10 ski and snowboard resorts that are a mixture of giant and small institutions which can be appropriate for all ranges of skiers and snowboarders.

Relaxation assured, in the event you’re approaching a month with no snow on your Niigata itinerary, there are numerous issues to do right here nonetheless, and one in every of my favorites is exploring Bokushi Dori (avenue) which can also be known as Shiozawajuku. Strolling by way of this space is like stepping again in time given how it’s speckled with Edo Interval homes and outlets.

Transport & Journey Information: Minamiuonuma Web site

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◘◘ Test right into a ryokan resembling Lodge Futaba

If you would like one of the best ryokan (Japanese inn) keep which you could ever expertise, take a look at Lodge Futaba!

When you’ve received some extra further time for you Niigata itinerary, I extremely suggest the next:

◘◘ Go to Ponshukan

Ponshukan will be discovered at Echigo-Yuzawa station and it’s a corridor that options a number of points of interest:

  • Sake merchandising machines: it’s precisely what the identify implies! With over 96 totally different manufacturers accessible, you simply have to purchase a cup value ¥500 solely, put a plastic token within the machine’s coin slot, slip in your cup, after which it is going to be crammed to the brim with sake. If unsure, there are employees individuals who would gladly help you!
  • Sake store: are you somewhat in search of bottles of sake? Subsequent door is a sake store that has over 96 varieties.
  • Purchasing space: there are numerous small stalls across the Ponshukan corridor that provide varied items from sweets to souvenirs.
  • Onsen: if you would like a novel sort of onsen expertise, subsequent door can also be an onsen however what units it other than typical onsens is which you could dip right here in sake!!
  • Guinness World File: When you go deep inside Ponshukan, you’ll find a store that has the biggest show of handmade stuffed toys (11,655) which can be tied by way of strings. This was achieved by Included Non-Revenue Group Japan Tsurushi-bina Affiliation and Akira Kitano final 2012.

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◘◘ Drop by Niigata Furusato Village

That is technically NOT a village as it’s extra of a tourism facility that homes a HUGE array of merchandise which can be good for souvenirs: soba, crafts, items, dairy, sake — you’ll discover all of it right here. You’ll even discover some displays right here that depict Niigata’s historical past, and once you need some nature, simply step out and also you’ll see a large area filled with 60,000 tulips!

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◘◘ Take Instagram-worthy photographs at Hoshi-Toge Rice Discipline

Dubbed “Japan’s 100 finest rural spots”, these rice-terraced fields have their very own distinctive look that’s finest visited both throughout dawn or sundown. I guarantee you that the view from this space will take your breath away!

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◘◘ Go to Yahiko Park (Maple Valley)

Greatest to do in Autumn. When within the Yahiko Village space, ensure that to drop by Yahiko Park. Right here, you’ll find nice sceneries that superbly specific each 4 seasons. Autumn season is definitely one of the best time to return right here as a result of the vermillion-lacquered Kan-tsuki Bridge completely blends in with all the scorching colours.

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◘◘ Ski at one of many prefecture’s ski resorts resembling Akakura Kanko Resort and Spa

Greatest to do in Winter (December to Could). This resort is claimed to be the primary in Japan to be designated as a global ski resort. You are able to do a number of actions right here: snowboarding and 11 trails (longest at 4km amongst many others. There’s even a particular space known as the Chibikko Hiroba which is for youngsters who’re too younger to hit the slopes.

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◘◘ Attend not less than one (1) Niigata occasion or pageant

A few of the most fascinating ones are…

  • Sake no Jin (Niigata Sake Pageant): Held mid-March, because the land of sake, that is one in every of Niigata’s main occasions. At this pageant, you’ll be able to pattern over 500 types of sake from roughly 90 native brewers! Simply buy a tasting ticket and also you’re positive to have a good time by way of and thru!
  • Tokamachi Snow Pageant: Sapporo is likely to be probably the most well-known snow pageant, however Niigata’s is definitely the oldest and doubtless probably the most laid-back and genuine snow celebration as properly. Moreover, with the heavy snowfall within the space, there isn’t a scarcity of sculptures which can be dispersed throughout city! When you’re all for witnessing this spectacle, it’s best to come on the third Saturday of February.
  • Oiran Dochu Courtesan Procession: Oirans not exist in Japan, however as a approach of commemorating their distinctive magnificence and tradition as high-rank courtesans and entertainers, processions like this are sometimes held in Japan. Niigata has its personal and it’s often held in the midst of April in Jizoudouhonchoudoori, Tsubame (Ookouzu banks, close to Bunsui station).
  • Niigata Hanae Mission: Since Niigata is one in every of Japan’s main tulip producers, this occasion that’s held from April 29 to Could 2 is the place contributors will create large “flower work” utilizing tulips that had been discarded within the strategy of bulb cultivation.
  • Nagaoka Pageant: As per ordinary, you’d anticipate float parades and people dance processions in festivals like this; BUT the primary spotlight of this affair held on August 1 to three is its large-scale fireworks show that occurs over the Shinano River. Useful to notice is that it’s thought-about one of many prime 3 fireworks exhibits in Japan since you’d usually witness insane stuff like 650-meter large sanshakudama fireworks, waterfall shapes, volcano-like formations, and 20,000 smaller shakudama fireworks.
  • Niigata Pageant: Lasting for 3 days beginning on August 7, you will notice a number of float parades, firework shows, and dance processions (that usually contain round 20,000 individuals)!
  • Earth Pageant: Held on Sado Island in August, the spotlight of this pageant is the efficiency of the world-famous taiko drummer group, Kado. This pageant lasts for 3 days and consists of varied occasions in an open-air live performance fashion.

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