September 2021 (vol. 167)
The Lure of Niigata Prefecture and the Shonai Area Great places for eating, drinking, and sightseeing
att.JAPAN × JapanUp!
September 2021 (VOL. 167)
The Lure of Niigata Prefecture
and the Shonai Area
Great places for eating, drinking, and sightseeing
Great cuisine and great sake are the draws of Niigata Prefecture and the Shonai area of Yamagata Prefecture. Why not explore the rich food culture and the history that cultivated that culture?
The secret behind their delectable taste
As the nation’s foremost rice grower, the area takes pride in its tradition of producing quality rice. Enjoy comparing the flavors of the different growers.
Pristine water essential to growing top quality rice, combined with the expertise of master brewers, have produced a rich array of sake. Many are of the crisp and dry tanrei-karakuchi type, but the large number of breweries have given rise to innumerable varieties.
by Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery
Soba Culture and Noodle Culture
The Niigata and Shonai areas are well known for their delicious soba and ramen noodles, which are deeply rooted in their history, climate and cultures.
Caption: Hegi-soba is a Niigata specialty. Al dente and smooth, the noodles are substantially filling.
Yamagata Prefecture is the biggest ramen consumer in Japan. Among others, “Sakata no Ramen” is a popular kind of ramen from Sakata City in Yamagata, characterized by the fact that more than 80% of the noodles are made “at home” in the respective ramen shops selling them.
A foodie traveler’s dream, click here for more gourmet information.
The panoramic windows of the sightseeing train, “Echigo TOKImeki Resort SETSUGEKKA,” look out to the mountains and ocean at the same time.
(Route: Joetsu-Myoko Sta. on the Myoko Haneuma Line (via Myoko-Kogen) – Itoigawa Sta. on the Nihonkai Hisui Line)
“Koshino Shu*Kura” is a sake-themed train with a tasting corner devoted to local Niigata sake (charged).
“KAIRI” is a new type of tourist train which offers local Niigata and Shonai dishes amid unfolding scenes of the Japan Sea.
(Service begins in October between Niigata and Sakata)
Ride on the “Echigo TOKImeki Resort SETSUGEKKA”!
Ponshukan Echigo Yuzawa Station Shop
This tasting shop offers almost 100 varieties of local sake. Fill your cup from the innovative vending machines! (5 cups for 500 yen)
Access: Inside Echigo-Yuzawa Sta.
Sake Bar Ayatsuru at Tsuruoka Food Culture Market FOODEVER
Explore Tsuruoka, a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, and discover the taste of the 18 varieties of sake from the Shonai region.
Access: Tsuruoka Sta. → 2 min on foot
Sado City: Tarai-bune Boat Ride
Tarai-bune, wooden washtub boats, were devised to collect seaweed, abalone, and turban shells from the rocky and narrow coves along the Ogi coast. These boats are safe enough for novices to steer.
*Prices vary depending on boat operators.
Jiko-ji Temple in Gosen City
The temple serves shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine), including sesame tofu with gingko nuts and a clear soup with lotus root dumplings. Visitors can try zazen (zen meditation) and shakyo (hand-copying of sutras) before the meal.
Access: Gosen Sta. on the Ban-etsu West Line → 10 min by bus → old Muramatsu Sta. → 15 min by taxi
In Tsuruoka City, Yamagata, walk along the cedar-lined path of Mt. Haguro in pilgrim’s robes
Stroll around in the traditional white garb of an ascetic and absorb the power of nature. Clothing rental, 5,000 yen per person (tax included).
Access: Tsuruoka Sta. → 50 min by bus → Mt. Haguro-sancho (peak)
One of the three major gorges in Japan. Pieces of art are displayed inside the walking tunnel that runs alongside the gorge. At Panoramic Station, the last viewpoint, the walk culminates into a mesmerizing reflection of the gorge on water surface. The best season for viewing the autumn foliage is from the end of October to early November.
Access: Echigo-Yuzawa Sta. → 25 min by express bus bound for Morimiyanohara → Kiyotsu Gorge Entrance bus stop → 30 min on foot
Gift for Frozen Village / Echigo Tsumari Art Field
The multi colors of the “Snow fireworks” light up the night sky while dotting their glows on the snow white fields below.
Access: Tokamachi Sta.
I went to see the snow fireworks!
I visited Kiyotsu Gorge!
This mysterious pond sits quietly at the base of Mt. Chokai. The play of light on a clear day turns its color to emerald green. A celebrated “power spot.”
Access: Yuza Sta. → 10 min by taxi
This aerial lift connects Naeba and Tashiro in about 25 minutes (Japan’s longest, at 5,481 meters). Be transported over breath-taking views of the autumn foliage and a silvery white winter wonderland.
Access: Echigo-Yuzawa Sta. → 50 min by bus (on the Naeba Prince Hotel Line)
Bijin Bayashi Forest
The name, “bijin,” or beauty, refers to the tall and graceful profiles of the approximately 100 year-old Japanese beech trees. Perfectly beautiful in any season. In winter, trek through the forest in snowshoes.
Access: Matsudai Sta. on the Hokuetsu Kyuko’s Hokuhoku Line → 15 min by bus bound for Matsunoyama Onsen → Sakaimatsu bus stop → 20 min on foot
Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark
Recognized as Japan’s first Global Geopark, the city has 24 geosites. At the Model Railroad and Diorama Gallery visitors can try running a model train themselves.
Access: Itoigawa Sta.
Enjoy Itoigawa Geopark to its Fullest!
Northern Culture Museum
The 29,000 square meters of this expansive estate was once the residence of the Ito family, who were wealthy farmers. The museum boasts a Japanese “strolling garden” that can be viewed from the main hall. The garden is illuminated at night in autumn.
Access: Niigata Sta. → 20 min by taxi
Along with Gion in Kyoto and Shinbashi in Tokyo, Niigata’s Furumachi has long been known for geigi, or geisha. Their gentle manner of talking in the Niigata dialect is one of the cultural assets of Niigata as a port town.
Somaro Maiko Teahouse
The Somaro Maiko, originally named “Somaya,” has been a popular restaurant since the Edo period (1603–1868). In 1996, the building was registered as a national cultural asset, and now offers a delicious lunch to accompany the performance of the Maiko dancers.
Access: Sakata Sta. → 5 min by taxi
Sado Gold and Silver Mine
Once Japan’s biggest gold and silver mine, part of it is now open to the public as a historic site. Mannequins recreate the miners at work and use of the suijorin (Archimedes’ screw) to pump water.
A National Historic Site: The tour takes about 40–50 minutes
Access: Ryotsu Port → 60 min by taxi
Yuzawa Town History Museum “Yukiguni-kan”
This is a museum where visitors can experience the lifestyle and history of Yuzawa Town, the setting of Kawabata Yasunari’s famous novel “Yukiguni” (Snow Country). The first floor has a recreated room of the heroine Komako, and it looks like she’s looking back making eye contact with the visitors. There is a place to sit around the fireplace and take photos as mementos.
Access: Echigo-Yuzawa Sta. → 7 min on foot
The magazine att.JAPAN is for non-Japanese visiting from overseas and those residing in Japan. This quarterly magazine written in English, Mandarin, and Korean offers a wide range of information about Japan –– from travel and sightseeing to various aspects of traditional culture and the latest trends. The magazine is distributed at major airports, hotels, and tourist information centers throughout Japan. https://att-japan.net/en/