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Top 30 Things To Do In Niigata, Japan - Updated 2020

things to do in nigata
Michelle Jamie
Michelle Jamie
Updated

Located on the west coast of Honshu Island in Japan, Niigata is a great all-year-round destination. It is known for having numerous excellent ski resorts, beautiful nature and national parks, and lots of relaxing hot springs. Whether you’re here for sightseeing or to try new activities, the city has something in store for you. Apart from the things mentioned, Niigata also boasts seafood, given its location. If you still haven’t planned anything for your trip in this coastal city, then read on, and discover our list of the top things to do in Niigata, Japan, and have a wonderful vacation ahead.

1. Admire the spectacular rock formations around Yodogawa River

Rock formations
Source: Pixabay

The Yodogawa River is one of the key attractions in Niigata, for its clear blue waters and 11 km (6.84 mi) long coast that features a variety of landscapes such as caves, reefs, uniquely shaped rocks, and more. Boating is an activity you shouldn’t miss trying whenever you’re here. When crossing the river, you couldn’t help but notice the beautiful rock formations like the dinosaur rocks and the spectacle rocks. This site is often packed with tourists, so make sure you come here early so you can enjoy the sights and the activities with lesser crowd. But, you don’t need to worry if ever there are many people during the time you visit because along the waiting area there are souvenir shops and restaurants that can keep you engaged.

Yodogawa River

Address: Niigata Prefecture Murakami City Samukawa-Hamashinpo

Website: Yodogawa River

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2. Take a ferry to rustic Awashima Island

Awashima Island
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user xe zna used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A star-shaped island, Awashima is an old port city, which is famous for the National Sailor School. The school is known for producing quality graduates that have been able to work for big shipping companies. After its closure, the school has been turned into Awashima Marine Memorial Park, a naval museum that features relics from the old school as well as maritime tools, variety of sailing equipment, and model ships. Another site to visit here is the Jonoyama Viewpoint. It is an easy 30-minute hiking trail that will lead you to a majestic view of the sea and the surrounding natural sceneries. Also, Awashima, along with its neighboring island, has become a contemporary art destination. The island, every year, hosts the Setouchi Triennale Art Festival.

Awashima Island

Address: Awashima Island, Niigata, Japan

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3. Get quality salted salmon from Kikkawa

Kikkawa
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user そらみみ used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Murakami City, which is known for being the world’s salmon capital, Kikkawa is one of the oldest businesses in town. This shop is famous for one thing which is its thinly sliced, air-dried-to-perfection salmon. If you’re curious about the process of making this delicious fish delicacy, the owner lets the customers peek into the back room, where you’ll see the salmon hanging from the wood ceiling. Another great buy here is their Sake wo sakebitashi, a sake made from thinly sliced salmon. Additionally, if you’re going here during the fall season, make sure to look at their tatami room and see the special exhibit that is happening during that day.

Kikkawa

Address: 1-20 Omachi, Murakami, Niigata 958-0842, Japan

Website: Kikkawa

Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)

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4. Have a rejuvenating onsen soak at Imaita Onsen Yumotokan (from USD 270)

Located in Gozu Village, with peaceful mountain surroundings, Imaita Onsen Yumotokan is a four-star Japanese hotel that features a garden and air-conditioned rooms. One of the reasons a lot of people book their accommodation here is because of the hot spring, which instantly relaxes sore muscles, which you experienced from all the activities you tried during the day. Apart from the hot spring, they also offer a 24-hour front desk, shared lounge, bicycle rental, and more. Another good thing about this hotel is it’s close to other must-visit attractions in the area like the Tsukioka Karion Park and Shibata Castle.


Yumotokan

Address: Imaita 795-2
Price: from 270 USD

Board games/puzzles Special diet menus (on request) Fax/photocopying Newspapers Parking Lift Cycling Bicycle rental (additional charge)

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5. Watch graceful swans gliding around Lake Hyo

Lake Hyōko 03
Source: Photo by user DAI-nk used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A small artificial lake that is located southwest of central Niigata, Lake Hyo is a national natural treasure for its abundance of swans and other migratory birds. Lots of people go here to feed and see up-close the beautiful wild swans. Also, the birds here don’t fear humans, which is why you can come closer and take photos with them. Make sure you bring your family with you for your kids will surely enjoy hanging out with migratory birds. A rare experience, you can only have here in Lake Hyo.

Lake Hyo

Address: Lake Hyōko, Niigata Prefecture, Central Niigata city, Japan

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6. Cruise around the scenic Niigata Port

Shinano river
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Siriusplot used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most delightful ways to sightsee in Niigata Port is through a cruise. The Shinano River Cruise is quite famous here. It will let you see the city from a different perspective through an open-air deck waterbus. The cruise has three schedules within the day. Apart from the river cruise, there are also many attractions nearby, which include Northern Culture Museum, Tsukioka Carillon Park, and Echigo hillside park.

Shinano River Cruise

Address: 2230-33 Shimookawamaedori Chuo-ku, Niigata 951-8052, Niigata Prefecture

Website: Shinano River Cruise

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7. Crunch on self-made rice crackers at Niigata Rice Cracker Kingdom

rice cracker
Source: Pixabay

A popular Japanese souvenir and delicacy, rice cracker is a staple snack in the country. If you’re wondering how these delightful rice crackers are made, then you have to visit the Rice Cracker Kingdom in Niigata. The kingdom will tell you about its production as well as its history. They will also let you roast a cracker to fully grasp the process. There are two kinds of rice crackers on sale here: the Okaki, which is made from sticky rice, and the Senbei, which is from normal rice. The rice crackers also come in different flavors like cheese, soy sauce, sugar, salt, lemon, and more. Moreover, the entrance is free, but for roasting crackers, it will cost you around 400 JPY or 3.78 USD.

Niigata Rice Cracker Kingdom

Address: 2661 Niizaki, Kita Ward, Niigata, 950-3134, Japan

Website: Niigata Rice Cracker Museum

Opening hours: 9:30am - 5pm (daily)

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8. Make a wish at Minato Inari Shrine famous dog statue

Teppozu Inari Shrine, at Minato, Chuo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lombroso used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Famous for its moving dog statues, Minato Inari Shrine is a must-visit attraction for people who believe in wishing well and shooting stars, for these are wish-granting statues. According to legends, during the old days, women go to the moving dog statue to pray for bad weather so that their husbands won’t sail off to the sea. As for instruction, the men should approach the dog on the right, and the women should turn it to the left before wishing.

Minatoinari Shrine

Address: 3482 Inari-cho, Chuo-ku, Niigata City

Website: Minatoinari Shrine

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9. Hike the stunning Mt. Yahiko

Mt.Yahiko
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hetare-man used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re a fan of nature adventures and hiking trips, you shouldn’t miss the chance of doing what you love in Niigata. Hiking to the top of Mt. Yahiko is a breeze with its cedar-lined trails, you will be at the top in just a few hours. In the dense forest, the trail is split into 10 parts, so you’ll be shaded from the harmful rays of the sun throughout your journey. After hours of hiking, you’ll find a small shrine and be welcomed by the mesmerizing views of Niigata, Sado Island, and the Sea of Japan. Additionally, you’ll find at the foothill the Mt. Yahiko-Jinja Shrine as well as a small store, where you can buy snacks.

Mt. Yahiko

Address: Yahiko, Nishikanbara District, Niigata 959-0323, Japan

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10. Relish the grilled seafood skewers at Teradomari Fish Market

Grilled seafood at Teradomari Fish Market Street
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hideki MACHIDA used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Are you looking for a place to eat cheap seafood? If so, there’s no better place to be than in Teradomari Fish Market in Niigata. The market is lined with shops selling the fresh catch of the day. As you enter the market, you will be welcomed by the smell of seafood cooking. There are plenty of fishes, prawns, and squids skewers to choose from, but the most famous seafood in Teradomari is the Snow Crab. There is a common practice here called Hamayaki, where you’ll catch, cook, and eat seafood in the same place. Visit the market and experience seafood dining like the locals.

Teradomari Fish Market

Address: Japan, 〒940-2502 Niigata, Nagaoka, 寺泊下荒町

Website: Teradomari Fish Market

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 8:30am - 5pm; Sun: 8am - 5pm

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11. Take a trip to the love lock fence at Lover's Point

Two Lovers Point
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user kyokyo used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If Paris has a love lock bridge, Japan has a Lover’s Point with a love lock fence. It is located on top of a cliff in Kashiwazaki City with a stunning view of the Sea of Japan. It is a must-visit attraction in Niigata for lovers who want to seal their promises on a love lock. If you’re coming with friends or alone, you can still buy a heart-shaped-plate, and instead of professing everlasting love, you can write down your wishes before hanging it on the fence. Apart from the love locks, Lover’s Point is a place where you can walk leisurely while enjoying the high altitude and the sceneries.

Two Lover's Point

Address: 133-1 Oumigawa, Kashiwazaki, Niigata 949-3661, Japan

Website: Two Lover’s Point

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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12. Cruise around the beautiful Lake Okutadami

Okutama lake
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rambalac used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lake Okutadami is the largest artificial lake in Japan that contains over 600 million tons of water, which supports the largest hydroelectric power station in the country. The most popular thing to do here is to hop on a sightseeing boat tour, where you’ll have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. If you’re planning to visit, make sure it is during the autumn season where everything is in its finest. Another attraction here is the sea of clouds, where waterfalls like clouds flow on top of the mountains.

Lake Okutadami

Address: Lake Okutadami, Niigata, Uonuma, Japan

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13. Explore the quirky modern artwork at Echigo-Tsumari Art Field

Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ann Lee used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The region of Echigo-Tsumari is a beautiful rural area with 760 sq km (293.438 sq mi) landscape, wherein hundred of contemporary artworks are laid out. The artworks are made by both local and international artists throughout the world. It aims to complement the rural scene and culture, like in the town center, school buildings, rice fields, and more. Also, Echigo-Tsumari is the home of the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale, which is a famous art festival that happens every three years.

Echigo-Tsumari Art Field

Address: 3743-1 Matsudai, Tokamachi, Niigata 942-1526, Japan

Website: Echigo-Tsumari Art Field

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14. Wander through the picturesque Hoshitoge Rice Terraces

Hoshitoge Rice Terraces
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nihongo1234 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

A picture-perfect attraction in Niigata, Hoshitoge Rice Terraces is famous for its varying sizes of tiered rice fields that continue up to the sloping hills. Hoshitoge is most photographed during June and November, when the paddies overflow with water, making it look like glistening scales of fish. Aside from being a tourist destination, these rice fields are also the source of income of its local.

Hoshitoge Rice Terraces

Address: Toge, Tokamachi, Niigata 942-1351, Japan

Website: Hoshitoge Rice Terraces

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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15. Take a walk through the row of lush beeches at Beauty Forest

Bijinbayashi means beautiful forest
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nihongo1234 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another photographer’s haven, the Beauty Forest is a must-visit attraction for travelers, who wish to be one with nature as well as take amazing photos. It is a 90-year-old Japanese beech forest that looks different every season. For example, during summer it exudes the color green, in autumn, it is stunning in red, and when winter, it is a glorious scene of branches shining under the sun. Aside from beauty, it is said to have healing elements.

Beauty Forest

Address: 1712-2 Matsunoyamamatsuguchi, Tokamachi, Niigata 942-1411, Japan

Website: Beauty Forest

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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16. Explore the Kiyotsu Gorge's unique lava formations

Another majestic hiking spot in Niigata, Kiyotsu Gorge has many things in store for its visitors. Apart from the stunning natural scenery and clear blue waters, the gorge features unique lava formations like the “columnar jointing” which resembles giant pencils that shoot up to the sky. If you plan to hike, the place is safe, and the trail is easy. You’ll be entering a tunnel that has a photograph and video collections that tell facts and information about the gorge. The tunnel will last about an hour and will end at the last viewpoint where you can see an uninterrupted view of the beautiful gorge.

Kiyotsu Gorge

Address: Koide, Tokamachi, Niigata 949-8433, Japan

Website: Kiyotsu Gorge

Opening hours: 8:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 800 JPY (7.54 USD)

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17. Try sake at Tamagawa Shuzo

Sake
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Niigata is known for producing the perfect rice. Thus, it is safe to say that they also make excellent quality sake. As evidence, drop by the Tamagawa Shuzo Brewery and taste some of their finest sake on the menu. Given their hundreds of years of history of making sake, the customers and guests can only expect fine quality products. Apart from sake, they also have rice-based bourbon and plum wine. Additionally, the brewery offers a tour with an English-speaking guide that will let you peek into their cellar as well as learn about the sake production, which involves the use of snow. The tour also includes sake tasting.

Tamagawa Shuzo

Address: 1643 Suhara, Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture

Website: Tamagawa Shuzo

Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (daily)

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18. Enjoy snow activities at Yuzawa Kogen Panorama Park Alpes

Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway, Yuzawa, Niigata
Source: Photo by user Kzaral used under CC BY 2.0

A trip to Niigata wouldn’t be complete without trying snow activities, and one of the top ways to experience it is through Yuzawa Kogen Panorama Park Alpes. The place features one of the largest ropeways in the world, the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway, which has a capacity of 166 people and a height of 1000 m (3280.84 ft). When you ride the cable car, it will take you around seven minutes to reach the mountain top from the base. Though it is only a short ride, it will give you a spectacular panoramic view of the beautiful scenery. And when you touch the ground, you can do everything you want, such as skiing, snowboarding, and even building a snowman.

Yuzawa Kogen Panorama Park Alpes

Address: 490 Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata 949-6101, Japan

Website: Yuzawa Kogen Panorama Park Alpes

Opening hours: 8:40am - 5pm (daily)

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19. Get thrilled at Mikura Suspension Bridge

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

A thrill-seeking adventure is what you get when you cross the Mikura Suspension Bridge. It is located in the lovely neighborhood of Ketto in the town of Tsunan. This wooden bridge, or also called a treasure of Akiyamago, features a wondrous view of the Nakatsugawa river and forest. Moreover, it was also used as a setting for the film entitled Yureru.

Mikura Suspension Bridge

Address: 〒949-8316 Niigata, Nakauonuma-gun, Tsunan, 大字結東子

Website: Mikura Suspension Bridge

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20. Sample fragrant Japanese wine at Iwanohara Vineyard

Iwanohara Vineyard
Source: Photo by user Josh Furr used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the oldest wineries in Japan, Iwanohara features a vineyard, a wine shop, a cellar, and a restaurant, where you can eat delicious dishes and sample local wines. Its founder believed in making wine using nature that’s why he came up with the Yukimura refrigerated snow room, which you can also view through a tour of the place. The wines here are only made from the grapes that grow in the vineyard.

Iwanohara Vineyard

Address: 1223 Kitagata, Joetsu, Niigata 943-0412, Japan

Website: Iwanohara Vineyard

Opening hours: 9:30am - 4:30pm (daily)

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21. Take a peaceful tour of Rinsen Ji Temple

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Poised at the foot of Mt. Kasuga, Rinsen Ji Temple was founded by the Uesugi family. The temple was said to be built by the grandfather of the famous warlord of the Sengoku Period, Uesugi Kenshin, as a place for the memorial service of the family. Kenshin lived in the temple for seven years. As proof, you’ll find here lots of items relating to the warlord, such as his tomb. You can also view here a replica of Kenshin’s carving of “the true teaching of Buddhism." 

Rinsen Ji Temple

Address: 1-1-1 Nakamonzen, Joetsu 943-0801, Niigata Prefecture

Website: Rinsen Ji Temple

Price: 500 JPY (4.71 USD)

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22. Shop for regional souvenirs at Roadside Station Umiterasu Nadachi

Umiterasu

If you’re done with all the sightseeing activities and tours, then, now is the time for relaxation and souvenir hunting. Roadside Station Umiterasu Nadachi is a compound facility that features ocean-view lodging, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, and hot springs that are perfect for the whole family. It also has specialty stores and local shops, where you can buy items that are unique in Niigata. One of its great features, which you’ll also love, is the lovely night view of the Sea of Japan.

Roadside Station Umiterasu Nadachi

Address: 4280-1 Namachi Omachi, Nagoya, Joetsu, Niigata 949-1602, Japan

Website: Roadside Station Umiterasu Nadachi

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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23. Have a picnic among the cherry blossoms at Takada Park

Memorials at Takada Park, Joetsu, Niigata
Source: Photo by user 長岡外史 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If one of the reasons why you are in Japan is because of the cherry blossom, then you have to visit Takada Park. Located at the heart of Joetsu City is one of Japan’s top 3 cherry blossom viewing site, the park has a wooded area of 50 hectares (123.55 acres) and contains the triple turret Takada Castle and Tokugawa Ieyasu son’s moat that in its calm state gives a beautiful reflection of the castle. Also, you’ll find numerous playgrounds, athletic stadium, bronze sculptures, and more at the park. But the star of the show remains the 4,000 cherry blossoms. During springtime, the park turns into a sea of pink flowers, which also marks the Cherry Blossom Festival. It is a two-week festivity with 300 food stalls and game booth lining up the park. The park is a sight at daytime, but it is in the dark that the magic happens when the cherry blossoms are illuminated by lanterns. Make sure to wait for this moment before going back to your accommodation.

Takada Park

Address: Japan, 〒943-0835 Niigata, Joetsu, Motoshirocho, 44-1

Website: Takada Park

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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24. Take a trip to the winter wonderland - Kanayasan Ski Area

Kanayasan Park, Joetsu, Niigata
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 長岡外史 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Have you ever wonder how skiing started in Japan? It is when Austro-Hungarian Empire’s soldier by the name of Major Theodor Edler von Lerch taught the locals how to ski in 1911, which makes Kayanasan Ski Resort the birthplace of skiing in Japan. Though this ski resort is relatively small, it features gentle and steep slopes, perfect for every level of skiers.

Kanayasan Ski Area

Address: 592-2 Onuki, Joetsu, Niigata 943-0893, Japan

Website: Kanayasan Ski Area

Opening hours: 9am - 4:30pm (daily)

Price: 3,800 JPY (35.82 USD)

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25. Catch the seasonal illumination outside APA Resort Joetsu Myoko (from USD 56)

The largest outdoor illumination display in the world, APA Resort outdoor illumination is made possible by more or less 1.6 million LED lights that cover the resort’s golf course. The 40,000 sqm (430,556.42 sq ft) course is divided into different themed parts, like the last year’s night safari, romantic flower garden, and the aurora show. The illumination is designed by Motoo Marumaru, a famous illumination designer.


APA Hotel & Resort Joetsu Myoko

Address: Okemi 1090

Karaoke Tennis court Dry cleaning Designated smoking area Mini golf Fax/photocopying Swimming pool Free WiFi

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26. Admire the spectacular foliage around Naena Falls

Naena Falls
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Qurren used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in the rural town of Myoko, Naena Falls is a year-round destination for its natural charm. During summer, you can take a dip, at the majestic waterfalls, to cool your body, and come fall season, you’ll experience the most beautiful foliage. The falls are also known as earthquake waterfalls because of the crashing sound it makes that reaches nearby forests. Going on a nature trip here is good for the soul and the body, so make sure you come and visit.

Naena Falls

Address: Japan, 〒949-2113 Niigata-ken, Myōkō-shi

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27. Look for precious gemstones on the Jade Coast

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Walking distance from Echigo Tokimeki Railway’s Itoigawa Station, Jade Coast is very popular for people who wish to find a piece of fortune on the shore. This shingle beach has varieties of precious stones which are brought downstream by the Himekawa River. You can occasionally find Jade among the rounded stones if you’re lucky. In case you find a beautiful stone, you can have it appraised at the nearby Fossa Magna Museum.

Jade Coast

Address: 2 Chome-4 Oshiage, Itoigawa, Niigata 941-0051, Japan

Website: Jade Coast

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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28. Learn about Sado's glittering history at the Sado Kinzan Gold Mine

Sado gold mine001
Source: Photo by user Opqr used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re into mining and history, then you might want to visit the Sado Kinzan Gold Mine. Back in the days, it was the most productive gold mine in Japan, which produces 400 kg (881.85 lbs) gold as well as a few silver and copper, per annum. Now, it serves as a museum that exhibits equipment and models about the mining operation. But the real attraction here is the two courses leading to the mining tunnel. The first course will show you restored Edo Period tunnels that have a display of animatronic miners; while the second course has newer mines from the Meiji Period, which were used until 1989.

Sado Kinzan Gold Mine

Address: 1305 Shimoaikawa, Sado, Niigata 952-1501, Japan

Website: Sado Kinzan Gold Mine

Opening hours: 8:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 900 JPY (8.48 USD)

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29. Meet the rare Japanese ibis at Toki Forest Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

If you’re an advocate of preserving life, especially nearly extinct animals, then you need to visit Toki Forest Park and know more about their cause. It is a conservation park wherein you can view up close the ibis as well as learn about the management’s effort to increase its population. After successfully increasing its population, the management set some ibises free into the wild, where they belong.

Toki Forest Park

Address: 383-2 Niibonagaune, Sado, Niigata 952-0101, Japan

Website: Toki Forest Park

Opening hours: 8:30am - 4:30pm (daily)

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30. Savor Niigata's special hebi-soba

Soba
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

A popular dish and souvenir in Japan, hegi-soba is a type of soba (buckwheat noodles) that is served in a hegi (wooden dish). Hegisoba is made with seaweed that’s why it has a smooth and at the same time firm texture. The noodles are divided into single mouthfuls so that it will be easier to eat. One of the most popular restaurants that serve Hegi-soba is Nakanoya Yuzawahonten. The difference of this restaurant from the rest is they make their soba with Uomo River’s clean water. Make sure to partner your noodles with tempura veggies for a perfect dining experience.

Nakanoya Yuzawahonten

Address: 2-1-5 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-Cho

Website: Name of food establishment

Opening hours: Fri - Wed: 11am - 8pm (closed on Thu)

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Say hello to charming Niigata

Niigata, Japan
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user User: Shoestring... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

An all-year-round destination in Japan, Niigata has something in store for everyone, whether you just want to soak in a hot spring and relax, or engage in snow activities and sports like skiing and snowboarding. Make sure to check our list of the best things to do in Niigata, Japan. Have an astounding vacation with your family or friends.

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I am a book-loving travel-junkie who tries to write for a living. My goal is to explore the world, get to know as many people as I can, and inspire others to do the same, for the world is brighter...Read more

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