Niigata Prefecture, located in Japan’s “Snow Country,” is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders, home to Yuzawa Ski Resort, one of the largest ski and snowboarding areas in Japan, and easily accessible from Tokyo. In combination with its onsen hot springs, visitors can hit the slopes, then hit the baths, soaking their aching muscles in the mineral water.
Despite its reputation as a winter wonderland, Niigata is a beautiful prefecture to visit, not just in winter, but all year round. Mt. Naeba doubles as both a ski resort and a hiking spot, the Nagaoka Summer Festival is a magical evening of fireworks, and the Naeba Gondola features the fiery autumnal foliage from a perfect vantage point. And for flower viewing, the Yahiko Shrine shows off the Imperial flower of Japan during the Chrysanthemum Festival. Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata, is one of Japan’s largest islands and hosts the three-day music festival in August called the Earth Celebration, which features drum performances, locally-made crafts, and street food.
Niigata Prefecture is known for rice and Japanese sake. It is famous for its Koshihikari Rice, one of the most high-quality and popular types of rice in Japan. Uonuma Koshihikari is one of the most highest-grade brands of Niigata rice, with a price tag to match. And of course, with such high-quality Japanese rice comes superior Japanese sake. The cool climate lends itself well to low and slow fermentation temperatures, leading to a mellower flavored sake. Mochi, another product of rice, is a popular Niigata food. In particular, Sasadango, a rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in a bamboo leaf, is a classic Niigata treat.
Niigata is known for a specialty oden dish called “noppe.” A warming dish, it is normally eaten in households during the winter season and consists of simmered ingredients such as konnyaku (konjac), carrot, lotus root, and mushroom.
Praying at Yahiko Jinja Shrine supposedly attracts love and good fortune. It is located at the base of Mount Yahiko, with a large torii gate placed in front that visitors can’t miss.
Muramatsu Park is one Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom viewing locations. This park has over 3,000 cherry blossoms, both white and pink varieties. During the evening, the park is aglow in pink and purple lights to illuminate the beauty of these flowers.
Niigata is known for its high-quality rice and stunning nature. With green mountains towering over the area during the summer, it will leave many mesmerized. Visit during the winter and you can visit Yuzawa, one of the popular ski resorts, which attracts Tokyo locals with its snow-capped peaks.
Sasa dango is a Niigata specialty. A type of confectionery, it originated during the Sengoku period and was known as a portable snack. The sweet consists of mochi (rice cake) and sweet red bean, and is wrapped in a bamboo leaf.
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