Niigata is located two hours of Shinkansen from Tokyo and is the biggest port city on the Sea of Japan. Established on the Shinano river mouth (the longest river in Japan) and crossed by Agano river, the city thrived with international trade in the 19th century.
Water is an omnipresent element in the city: it can be enjoyed at the beach, and in Niigata’s numerous renowned onsen. Shinano river was used for irrigating of the rice paddy fields and for other farming activities in Echigo plain. Its stream also gave access to Sado island, 45 kilometers toward the sea.
Bandai bridge, first built in 1886, is one of Niigata’s symbols. The six arches of the structure, now of reinforced concrete, were designed Japan’s Important Cultural Property in 2004. Niigata also offers various museums and sake breweries to discovery.
The train station is located very close to Niigata’s downtown, making it easy to explore the city on foot, by cycle or bus. Bandai and Furumachi are two historical and touristic districts separated by Shinano River. The old city saw a part of its traditional buildings destroyed by a fire in 1955, that were replaced by modern constructions of commercial complexes and trendy department stores.
Located on a seismic zone, the area is frequently hit by earthquakes. One of the most important occurred in 1964 and ranged 7,5 on the Richter scale. The last noticeable one in 2007, had a 6,3 magnitude.
Niigata became sister city with French port town Nantes in 2009, favoring linguistic exchanges among students, as well as the importation of a classical music festival La Folle Journée ("the crazy day"). This festival has been since held each year in spring in Japan.
How to get to Niigata
By train -- From Tokyo, about 2h of JR Shinkansen Joetsu (about ¥11,000 / ~US$ 104.20 the roundtrip or free with the JR Pass).
By plane -- To Niigata Airport (KIJ): 1h from Osaka, 1h30 from Fukuoka or 2h from Seoul (South Korea)
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
How long / when to visit
One to two days for Niigata downtown and surroundings