🍃 A treasure trove of heartwarming cuisine, exquisite accommodations and breathtaking terrains, Niigata Prefecture is bound to entice you with its finest foods, awesome scenery and unique experiences. 🍃
Upon mentioning Niigata, most Japan fanatics might immediately think of delicious Japanese rice. No doubt, while the region is renowned for producing one of the highest quality rice in the world, there is much more to discover for the curious tourist.
The fifth largest prefecture of Japan, Niigata offers each traveller with an off-the-beaten-track immersion into the Japanese culture that will rejuvenate your spirit and soul. From luxurious hot spring inns, mouth-watering local delights to unparalleled views of natural landscapes, a trip to this lesser known area of Japan is sure to win you over in no time.
On your next trip, make sure to check off this compiled a list of activities in Niigata!
★ MUST DO ★
・Visit a sake museum
Found inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station, visitors can try up to 100 varieties of sake at Ponshu-kan (ぽんしゅ館越後湯沢駅店). There is even a sake onsen right next door so you can soak your worries away too!
・Make your very own senbei
At Senbei Okoku (せんべい王国), you have the rare opportunity of roasting a 25cm wide rice cracker, and drawing on it with shoyu to personalise it.
・Try out snow activities
Known for its high snowfall, you will be spoiled for choice when picking a resort. Gala Yuzawa has 15 different runs with varying difficulty, while Naeba offers spa treatments and is also the host of the famous Fuji Rock Festival.
★ MUST STAY ★
・Osado Onsen Hotel Osado
Credit: Enjoy Niigata website
Situated on Cape Kasuga, the open-air baths offer panoramic views of the coastline so you can sit back and relax while taking in the scenery. The meals also feature plenty of choice seasonal produce from Sado Island.
・Kirinzan Onsen Yukitsubaki-no-Yado Furusawaya
Opened since 1935, this ryokan faces the Agano River and the foothills of Mt. Kirin. With only 15 rooms available, you are guaranteed a serene stay with gorgeous views of the surrounding nature.
・Mastsudai Shibatoge Onsen Unkai
This inn is found 400 metres above sea level and has an exquisite outdoor bath that overlooks the mountains of the Uonama Range and terraced rice paddies. With the right conditions, a sea of clouds form so you feel as though you are floating on them.
★ MUST SEE ★
・Terraced rice fields of Hoshi-toge
These overlapping paddies are also known as senmaida (千枚田), or “thousand-fold rice fields”. Selected as one of Japan’s 100 best rural spots, the appearance of the fields change with the growth of rice each season and is a sight to behold during sunset.
Constructed in 1614 as the home base of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sixth son, the area surrounding the three-tiered turret is renowned as a sakura-viewing spot. During summer, lotus flowers bloom in abundance and cover the entire outer moat.
This park is dedicated to the toki (朱鷺, Japanese Crested Ibis), which was once an integral part of Japan’s rural landscape. Here, you can learn more about the conservation efforts made by Sado Island as well as admire the ibis in its natural habitat.
★ MUST EAT ★
・Kiwami Sushi Platter (極み寿司)
Indulge in an lavish platter including uni (ウに, sea urchin), ikura (いくら, salmon roe) and white fish atop warm home-grown sushi rice. Order the extravagant Kiwami Gozen set at Tomi Sushi (Niigata) to taste the best seasonal fish, which also comes with ara-jiru (あら汁, miso soup with fish) and tempura.
*Tomi Sushi is also available at Millenia Walk, Novena, Katong and Echigotei in Singapore.
This famous treat is made of mugwort-flavoured mochi (もち, glutinous rice) and red beans wrapped in bamboo leaves.
・Tare-katsu Donburi (タレカツ丼)
Niigata’s take on the Katsudon (カツ丼, deep-fried pork cutlet rice bowl) comes with tempting cutlets dipped in a savoury-sweet sauce.
(This feature first appeared on WAttention Singapore magazine, Mar/Apr 2017 Vol. 37)