Niigata Travel Guide
The largest city on the Sea of Japan, Niigata is an agricultural powerhouse that often gets overlooked by travellers.
Come check out our Niigata travel guide for curious explorers as we cover the best things to do in Niigata, Japan.
Begin your visit to Niigata by spending some time at the Old Saito Residence. Serving as the former summer retreat for one of this city’s leading families, visitors will be able to get a sense for how the wealthy elites during the Meiji Restoration lived their lives (spoiler alert: very well).
Highlights of this villa include a peaceful garden in the rear and a tatami room where guests can purchase tea and snacks to enjoy as you overlook the aforementioned garden. Note that admission to this attraction is 300 yen, so be sure to have proper change before setting out for this attraction.
Next, make your way over to the Hakusan Shrine. As the most important Shinto shrine in Niigata, you will find plenty of locals milling about, especially on major holidays. It is said those who make wishes regarding romance and business ventures will have them granted if they are made here, explaining the crowds.
Its grounds are also packed with flowering trees and shrubs (including sakura), making it a great place to be in the springtime. If you are here during the summer months, check out the Hakusan Shrine Summer Festival, and around New Year’s Day, there are also well-attended celebrations, so be sure to drop by if you are in Niigata during either time of year.
When in Niigata, be sure to also make room in your travel itinerary for the Northern Culture Museum. Situated in the former mansion of the Ito family, a unit that owed their fortune to their agriculture holdings, you will find calligraphy, artwork, lacquerware, and functions that made it a great place to live during the Edo Period.
With a fantastic garden, tatami rooms, a kitchen capable of preparing meals for more than 60 people per day, and much more, make sure this place is on your list of things to see in Niigata.
While Japan does amazing beers and whiskies, there’s no question its most unique alcoholic beverage in sake. Sample some of the best in the nation during your visit to Niigata by going on a tour of the Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery.
Made from the award-winning rice harvested in Niigata Prefecture and the clear, clean waters of the Aganogawa River, the sake that results is exceptional and is well-loved by the locals. Samples follow the tour, so ensure you have transport options afterwards that are sober – Japan has strict drinking & driving laws and they will not allow you to imbibe if it isn’t clear whether you have a safe ride home.
Looking for an offbeat place to visit during your visit to Niigata? Give the Niigata Rice Cracker Museum a try. Within, you’ll find a place that will fill you in on the history of the rice cracker and how they are made.
That isn’t even the best part about this place, though, as you will have the chance to roast your rice crackers on site. With flavours ranging from salt to cheese to soy sauce, you’ll have plenty of taste sensations awaiting you (especially when you factor in the sauces on the side). Admission is free, but expect to pay 400 yen if you want to roast rice crackers.
Have a thing for aquatic animals? Make sure that Marinepia Nihonkai is a part of your time in Niigata. Here, you will find 500 different species of fish and sea mammals, which include otters, Humboldt penguins, and dolphins.
The latter animals are at the centre of popular daily shows, so if you are travelling as a family, be sure to include this attraction in your places to visit while you are in Niigata.
Japan is full of lively and interesting markets; in Niigata, Pia Bandai is one of them. Remember how we said earlier that Niigata Prefecture is home to some of this nation’s best rice? You can buy it here for 500 yen per kilo.
Fruit, vegetables, rice crackers, sake, and many more local products made by farmers and local food producers can be bought here, so if you are cooking for yourself, stock up here.
Take a break from your sightseeing in Niigata in Hakusan Park. Since the late 19th century, it has been a place where office workers will eat lunch during the week. It is also a popular gathering place during sakura season, so definitely drop by if you are here during the spring.