The City of Niigata is a big industrial and port city with limited tourist attractions. However, there are a few things visitors will not want to miss, and the surrounding area has a number of delightful opportunities for travelers.
The Port of Niigata offers the Shinano River Cruise where visitors can see the city from a waterbus with an open-air deck. The cruise is offered three times each day. The city has a large busy shopping area, a beautiful theater, and several interesting museums. In the winter, the site of swans on the river is almost poetic.
The Port of Niigata also has a wonderful Northern Culture Museum located in a 19th Century home. Collections include paintings and sculptures and documents related to the history of the city. The museum includes several buildings along with restaurants and cafes.
The Port of Niigata’s Tsukioka Carillon Park, located next to the Tsukioka Hot Springs, is filled with the sounds of chimes, and the Carillon Culture Hall has an exhibit of swords made by Akitsugu Amata, a National Living Treasure. The Houzuki-no-sato Onsen (hot bath) is located within the park, and visitors will enjoy its relaxing effects.
Not quite 50 kilometers across the Sea is the island of Sado. This beautiful island was once an exile location for political dissidents, including Emperor Juntoku. When gold was discovered at Aikawa, the island boomed, and the gold was a major source of income for the Tokugawa shogunate. Mining was done with near-slave labor by homeless unfortunate taken from the mainland. Today, Sado is a wonderful get-away with quaint fishing villages, green hills, and rocky coasts. During the summer, the weather is great. Winters can be difficult. Sado is an oasis of the old, rural Japan.
At Aikawa on Sado is the Sado Gold Mine which is open daily for tours where you can see what it was like to work there. North of Aikawa is the scenic Sotokaifu Coast and Senkaku Bay. Sado’s Kuninaka is home to several temples of the Nichiren faith and Mano Goryo, the shrine and burial place of Emperor Juntoku. Near the shrine is the Sado History and Tradition Museum featuring local “legends.” The museum displays works of Sasaki Shodo. The Sado Toki Preservation Center, in the middle of the island, is one of the few places where people can see the Japanese Crested Ibis, as there are about 100 Ibis left on the island. On the south coast near Ogi, visitors will find the small quaint Shukunegi harbor with its traditional wooden houses recalling the Edo period.
The town of Nagaoka, about 50 kilometers south-southwest of the Port of Niigata, has several sights well worth the visit. The national Echigo Hillside Park holds many beautiful Japanese flowers and trees and a wonderful Japanese garden. It also offers an excellent restaurant for barbeque. Famous for fireworks, the Nagaoka Festival is launched by great fireworks displays. For two days, as many as 20 thousand fireworks explode along the Shinano River.
Also about 50 kilometers south of the Port of Niigata in the mountains is Yuzawa, where visitors enjoy the Sake Museum inside the Echigo-Yuzawa train station. Over one hundred types of sake are displayed, and visitors can even bathe in sake next door to the museum.