In 2020, Japan Wonder Travel was given a project by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to promote 14 selected prefectures that have been affected by typhoons. We offered 20 internationals living in Japan, the opportunity to travel to several destinations and share their experiences while travelling and also after.
- Chris – Niigata prefecture
- About Niigata trip
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Hotel he stayed during the trip
Chris – Niigata prefecture
My name is Chris, I am 28 years old, I am from Switzerland, and for me it’s the 4th time I visit Japan. Except this time is a little different; last 3 times I enjoyed travelling in Japan so much, but I only had a short time to do so. For this reason I started planning a while back in my country so I would able to spend more time in Japan on the next I would come. So now, it has been about 4 months that I am living in Tokyo and studying. I study Japanese at school on weekdays but now I am also able to go around and visit some nearby prefectures on weekends or further places whenever I have some holidays.
Before moving to Japan I worked for about 6 years in Geneva but decided to quit my last job to take some free time for myself, learn new stuff and also travel. My big hobby is actually photography so whenever I travel I always carry my heavy bag full of lenses and my drone with me.
So far I visited a lot of places in Japan and I wish to continue on that for the next following months (I plan to stay until summer 2020 in Japan).
I have been to the south in Kyushu and visited Fukuoka for one day, Shimabara and then Kumamoto where I have some local friends living, with them we went by car to Kagoshima, which is in the very southern part of Kyushu. I also visited Hiroshima prefecture and spent one night in a ryokan on Itsukushima Island which was a formidable experience. I also couldn’t skip Kyoto and Osaka which are the most famous cities with Tokyo when you visit Japan.
However, recently I started to focus my interest on the unrecognised places in Japan and prefectures not really visited by people. My intent is to try to “find some hidden gems” and also avoid the already predefined spots for tourists and the masses. I know it’s contradictory with the fact I decided to move in a city as big as Tokyo…
I had the chance to join a tour guided by Japan Wonder Travel in Fukushima prefecture, which was a really enlightening experience as we travelled this area but also met locals who experienced the disasters that happened back in 2011. And since then I started to travel more on my own, for example in Nagano prefecture and other areas surrounding Tokyo.
About Niigata trip
I was given the opportunity to travel to Niigata Prefecture for 2 days and 1 night by Japan Wonder Travel. They gave me an itinerary including many spots, and I also took the liberty to stop by and add some spots I found worthy.
So here is where and what I did in Niigata during this trip:
On Day 1 I went to Tokyo Station to catch the Shinkansen going to Niigata City. I took the train around 8AM and it takes only about 1hour and half to reach Niigata with the Shinkansen and you don’t even need to transfer at any point which is super convenient.
So, right after arriving in Niigata station, this is the itinerary I followed:
From Niigata to Fukushimagata Lagoon
Right after arriving at Niigata station, I took a train to Toyosaka Station, it takes only 20 minutes to get there and doesn’t cost much (240 JPY). However keep in mind that, if like me, you decided to walk from the station to the lagoon, it’s a bit far (about 35 minutes).
But you can also take a taxi from the station to get there. As far as I could see there is always some available taxis at the station.
Right in front of the lagoon there is a tower called “View Fukushimagata” from which you can see the panorama and take a coffee. You can also walk around the lagoon and observe the beautiful sights and the huge amount of different birds living there.
To return to the station I had the chance to find a car passing by when hitchhiking. That saved me a little walk back.
My next stop was Hyōko Lake which is located in the town of Agano.
To get there I took a train from Toyosaka Station to Suibara Station and had to transfer on the way by Shibata Station. It took me about 40 minutes by train to arrive at Suibara station but the cost was again not so expensive (about 500 JPY).
Again, I decided to walk a bit from the station to the lake (the walk was about 25 minutes) but you could also take a taxi from the station, same as earlier.
On the way to the lake you should pass by the main street of Agano which has many nice shops and they sell many local products. Unfortunately for me on that day many shops were closed.
Hyõko Lake is surrounded by some walking areas, you can walk all the way around, there is also a few cafes next to the main part of the lake so if you feel more like sitting down and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere you can also do it.
There is a parking nearby, so if you come by car you can park right next to the lake.
Northern Culture Museum (北方文化博物館)
My next stop was the Northern Culture Museum. To get there I took a taxi from Suibara Station as there were unfortunately not many other ways to arrive there from where I was. The ride was about 15 minutes by car, so not too long and it didn’t cost that much.
The museum counts many buildings and also some traditional restaurants and beautiful gardens. Unfortunately for me February is not the best period as most of the flowers bloom around May or later.
Despite of this, the museum offers many different exhibitions; there are also some typical traditional buildings that will make you realise how people were living in Japan a long time ago.
On the pictures above, you can see how farmers houses were back then. Not as comfortable as nowadays.
The museum also has many exposed objects and the main building was by far the most beautiful and impressive part of it.
Here you can see some of the long hallways of this mansion.
Back to Niigata for the night.
After finishing my visit of the museum it was time to head back to Niigata. I took a bus that departed near the museum to go directly to the hotel where I was spending the night in Niigata City. The ride was about 45 minutes and the ticket was pretty cheap.
I stayed for the night at the hotel named Dormy Inn Niigata. My room was very comfortable and clean and the facility also offers some nice onsen, however be aware that your room might not have its own shower due to the fact they have them at the onsen.
At night I had early diner, the staff recommended some places with various different type of foods around Niigata city. I tried the local “tare katsudon” which was also recommended by one of the staff from Japan Wonder Travel who is from Niigata and it was the best recommendation ever. It was the first time for me to try it and it was super delicious. I would also recommend it to anyone.
The Tare katsudon in とんかつ政ちゃん 新潟駅前店
Later I walked around the center at night, had also some sushi that were amazingly tasty and fresh. The best sushi I tried so far at this point. The area near Niigata station counts A LOT of restaurants and izakaya, you wouldn’t have any problem finding something.
My itinerary on this second day.
I started my day by waking up very early as I wanted to know many things before going back to Tokyo. After the check out in the hotel, I headed directly to the Bandai’s Bridge, which is 15-20 minute walk from the hotel or the train station.
Bandai’s Bridge is one of the most emblematic spots in Niigata city. From the bridge, I headed to the train station to take the next train in direction to Uchino.
After arriving at Uchino Station from Niigata Station, I had to take a taxi to reach “Cave D’Occhi” as there are no buses or any other transportations going there.
Cave D’Occhi is a local winery that produces many different types of wines in the area. You have the possibility to join a guided tour of the facility but you have to reserve it in advance. I had the possibility to taste many wines while I was there, sparkling wine, white wine, red wine… I really loved the red one. Also the Japanese staff who introduced me the wines was in fact one of the chef of Cave D’Occhi restaurant and he studied in France in the past, so we could speak a bit in French together, it was amusing and very nice.
This red wine is called “Sable” which means “Sand” in French; the name is due to the ground which is used to grow the grapes. You can also purchase many local artisanal in this place including of course wines.
Next stop: Yahiko
From Cave D’Occhi I took another taxi to reach Yahiko. Yahiko is well known for Yahiko-jinja which is a really famous shrine in Niigata prefecture and also its beautiful park surrounding it. I walked around for a while since this location was super nice and also a great spot for photography.
Unlike some other really famous places like in Kyoto, this one was not crowded with tourists which was very pleasant.
If you go to Yahiko and this park you should definitely try the ropeway that goes up to Mt. Yahiko. The ropeway is actually located in the park (about 10 minutes walking from the entrance). From up there you will have an impressive panorama on Niigata prefecture and its’ mountains in the background. When the weather is good you can also spot Sado’s island from the distance.
Direction Teradomari Fish Market Street!
My last stop for this trip: Teradomari.
Teradomari Market Street is located right next to the sea; I managed to get there by taking a taxi as well. Another option would have been to take a train from Yahiko to Teradomari Station but the schedule was not very convenient and also from Teradormari you have to take a car to get there, there is no bus and by walk it’s way too far.
If you are into seafood, Teradomari Market Street is the place for you! I walked around this street a bit and stopped by some stands to try some of the local stuffs. They have fishes on sticks, grilled shrimps, crab, squid and many more.
One of my favorite was a ball made of chicken covered with some sauce and with shrimps inside; DELICIOUS.
People come to this market not only as tourists but also to buy fresh sea food, you will find tons of them, all looked so good. If you are a chef, some shops also propose tools and professional knifes, a bit expensive but the quality seemed amazing, I should have bought one for my father.. (He is a chef). Maybe next time?
Going back to Tokyo
That’s almost the end of my trip.
Once I reached Teradomari Station, I took a train to Tsubamesanjo Station. From there you can take the Shinkansen that goes directly back to Tokyo. As on the way to go to Niigata you don’t need to do any transfer and, as always with the Shinkansen, the comfort of those trains are worth the cost.
I didn’t know much about Niigata prefecture; I was thinking about visiting it, but didn’t know when yet. When I was given the opportunity to go there with Japan Wonder Travel it was indeed the perfect timing. They gave me an itinerary and from this I also researched what could be nice to see on my own. That why I ended up adding several spots on the original schedule.
I will totally recommend anyone to visit Niigata and it’s hidden treasures, I wished I had more time to visit for example also Sado’s island and its gold mines or other spots but it takes time.
I would also recommend people going there, if they have the possibility, to rent a car. It would be easier to move around and you will save time as well as sometimes the transportations don’t have a really convenient schedule.
Also a big reason to go there: FOOD !
Everything I ate there was amazing, super tasty and you could tell it was very fresh.
Hotel he stayed during the trip
We were very excited to work with Chris-san, and all the other guests for this project, and will continue to do our best to promote the less known destinations as much as we can. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram to find another project with us.
And of course, if you need any help to find hidden gems in Japan, Japan Wonder Travel will happily help you out.