Port of Niigata
Review and History

The Port of Niigata lies on Japan’s western shores where the Shinano River meets the Sea of Japan. It is the largest city and capital of Niigata Prefecture. In 2005, it was merged with several nearby municipalities, and its population grew substantially overnight. In 2005, almost 814 thousand people called the Port of Niigata home.

The Port of Niigata has long been a port town, and it is still the main port on the Sea of Japan. The Port of Niigata imports mostly raw materials and coal, and it has brisk trade with Russia and South Korea. Its city government was formed in 1889.

Port History

Although parts of the area were under water during the Jōmon period, humans lived in the Port of Niigata area. Archaeological evidence suggests a fortress was built there in the middle 7th Century AD.

The Port of Niigata was established in the 16th Century, and the town prospered during the Sengoku Period. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, canals were built on the Port of Niigata’s main island. Fishermen based in the port chased salmon and other fish as far north as the Kamchatka Peninsula.

In the early 18th Century, one canal on the Agano River was destroyed by floods, but it redirected the river’s main current and decreased the amount of water that flowed into the Port of Niigata. The benefit to this mishap was making land available for reclamation and the development of new rice fields.

The Port of Niigata was designated as one of five ports by the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce to be opened for international trade, but ships could not dock there until 1869 due to the shallow water levels. Ships arrived from and departed to the United States, France, the Netherlands, Russia, and the United Kingdom, and they continue to arrive regularly today.

The Port of Niigata was an important strategic location during World War II. It was the sailing point for military personnel and settlers going to the Asian continent. As the war ended, the Port of Niigata was one of four cities targeted for the atomic bomb by the United States. Responding to rumors, the prefecture governor ordered an evacuation, and the Port of Niigata remained empty for several days.

Due to bad weather, Nagasaki was the recipient of the bomb meant originally for the Port of Niigata. Nonetheless, the Port of Niigata has had its fair share of problems. In 1955, a terrible fire destroyed much of the city’s downtown area. In 1964, a 7.5 earthquake killed 29 people and causing severe property damage. Almost 2,000 buildings were leveled, 6,650 partly destroyed, and over 15 thousand were inundated by liquefaction. That year, the canals were filled in to create new roads. In 1965, the Showa Electrical Company’s chemical plant polluted the Agano River with methylmercury, and almost 700 people presented symptoms of Minamata disease.  

In 1967, the Port of Niigata became the first designated port on the Sea of Japan, and in 1995, it was designated the only Core International Port on those shores.

The Port of Niigata increased in population and size dramatically between 2001 and 2005 as a result of mergers with nearby cities. In 2007, the Port of Niigata became Japan’s first government-designated city on the west Honshu coast. In 2008, the Port of Niigata played host to the 2008 G8 Labor Ministers’ meeting.

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