Enjoy the Best of Niigata’s Nature, History, and Cuisine


4 Days

Niigata Prefecture offers a wide range of natural environments, starting with its 600 km-long coastline, the longest river in Japan (the Shinano), and its many mountains that surround it. This magnificent natural environment allows the rich variety of delicious food in Niigata to be produced. This course has been designed to offer visitors the chance to indulge to the full in the attractions of Niigata as they travel around the prefecture, trying new and different things, learning about the delicacies only available here, its hot springs, and its history.

Access From Narita

  1. Day 1

      1. Niigata Station → [50 minutes by limited express on the Uetsu Main Line] →Murakami Station

      1Enjoy a famous dish from Murakami, the salmon town

      Kappo Chidori has long been a favorite of locals. With a relaxed, homely atmosphere, it serves Murakami beef, which has been rated the best in Japan, as well as the famous local salmon, offering food made from fresh ingredients at reasonable prices. The restaurant is popular with overseas visitors, and in addition to English, there are also Chinese (both traditional and simplified) and Korean menus available.
      There’s a tourist information counter outside Murakami Station, Murakami Tabi-Navi Kan, where you can get all sorts of information on places to eat and drink and more. They carry pamphlets in English and Traditional Chinese as well, so make sure to pick up a few.

      Murakami Murakami
      1. Murakami Station→ [10-minute walk] → Murakami townhouses

      2Stroll around streets lined with traditional old houses

      Murakami is the northernmost castle town in Niigata Prefecture, and is still home to numerous traditional buildings, used as houses or shops. Everywhere you go you will find traditional townhouses*1 (machiya) that are open to the public. They are also home to annual events that always lure in a crowd of tourists, such as the Machiya Parade of Dolls*2 from March 1 to April 3, and the Machiya Screen Painting Festival*3 from September 15 to October 15.

      *1 Machiya is the traditional Japanese shophouse style of architecture.
      *2 An exhibition of dolls handed down among families for generations.
      *3 An exhibition of old screen paintings handed down among families for generations.

      Murakami Murakami Murakami
      1. Murakami townhouses → [15 minutes by car]→ Senami Onsen

      3Senami Onsen

      Senami Onsen boasts a history of more than a century, and being close to a bathing beach means that it is packed with a lot of families visiting in summer. The water temperature is about 90°C, which is quite hot, but this also means that onsen-tamago (eggs poached in hot spring water) are available everywhere. The spa town has a wide range of hotels and it also has foot baths you can try for free. Facing a beautiful long coastline, there is nothing like relaxing in a hot bath as you gaze at the sun setting over the Sea of Japan.

      Senami Onsen Senami Onsen Senami Onsen
  2. Day 2

      1. Senami Onsen → [10 minutes by car] →Murakami Station
      2. Murakami Station → [50 minutes on the Uetsu Line]→ Niigata Station
      3. Niigata Station → [10 minutes by car]→ Niigata Port
      4. Niigata Port → [65 minutes on jetfoil ferry] → Ryotsu Port

      4Enjoy famous local dishes at Ryotsu Port

      Yorokonde, located inside the Sado Steam Ship terminal building in Ryotsu Port, is proud of the quality of its sashimi set menus made using wonderfully fresh fish landed right in the port. Sattobi, made using minced flying fish,* is a Yorokonde original. They also serve Hamburger steak, mince cutlet curry, udon, and many other dishes. Don’t forget to try the seasonally-limited dessert made from local Okesa persimmons.
      *Flying fish are caught off Sado.

      There’s a wide range of restaurants and souvenir shops in the Ryotsu Port Terminal.

      Ryotsu Port
      1. Ryotsu Port → [one hour by car] → Sado Gold Mine Historical Site

      5Sado Gold Mine Historical Site

      With some four hundred years of history, and an active gold mine until 1989, this is the most important historical site on the island. The mines present a unique way of experiencing what work in the tunnels was like, using life-sized mannequins. In addition to tracing the paths of history along two courses at Sado Gold Mine, you can also visit the nearby site of the Kitazawa Flotation Plant, said to have been the biggest in Asia.

      There’s also an English website.

      Sado Gold Mine Sado Gold Mine Sado Gold Mine
      1. Sado Gold Mind Historic Site → [20 minutes by car] → Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen

      6Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen

      Senkaku Bay is a stretch of coastline about 2 km long, with sheer cliffs and rock outcroppings carved out by storm waves. Some say that the scenery is just as grand as the famous Hardangerfjord in Norway. The area is a quasi-national park, which offers an observation platform, an aquarium and other facilities for visitors, so you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the bay. The glass-bottomed boats, which let you see fish swimming in the clear sea, are also a popular attraction.

      Senkakuwan Senkakuwan
      1. Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen → [15 minutes by car] → Aikawa Onsen

      7Aikawa Onsen (overnight)

      This hot spring area is in a very convenient location, with great access to the Sado Gold Mine, Senkakuwan Ageshima Yuen, the Sado Commissioner’s Office Site, and other popular tourist attractions. The area offers five different onsen accommodations. As it’s right on the western tip of Sado, one of the attractions of staying here is being able to see the beautiful sunsets over the expansive Sea of Japan.

      Check out the Sado Tourist Navigation site for accommodation and tourist information.

      Aikawa Onsen
  3. Day 3

      1. Aikawa Onsen → [one hour by car] → Shukunegi

      8Stroll around Shukunegi

      Shukunegi retains the atmosphere of the Edo period (1603-1867), and is designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings.* The well-known “Triangle House” and “Seikuro’s House” are open to the public, so you are welcome to visit them. The views here, with wooden houses crowded along the small lanes that wind along the tiny inlets and the modest facades along the canals, will free your soul from the cares of everyday life.
      *Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings are districts recognized by the state (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) as having particular value out of the Traditional Architecture Preservation Districts designated by each municipality.

      It takes about an hour to see the Shukunegi village. Your first stop should be the Shukunegi Streetscape Information Office to pick up an English map.

      Shukunegi Shukunegi Shukunegi
      1. Shukunegi → [10 minutes by car] → Rikiya Kanko Kisen

      9Enjoy a fun ride on traditional round tub-boats

      When in Sado, everyone wants to try a ride on their famous tub-boats. These have been featured in anime movies, and are still used today for fishing. Conveniently located close to Sado Kisen Ogi Port, Rikiya Kanko Kisen is busy every day with people who come over to ride the tub-boats. Female skippers skillfully maneuver their boats, creating an unforgettable travel experience. High-speed motorboats are another popular way to get around the tourist sites.

      Tub boats
      1. Rikiya Kanko Kisen → [5 minutes on foot] → Ogi-ya

      10Enjoy the best of Sado at Ogi Port

      Ogi-ya is conveniently located and directly connected to Ogi Port. The first floor sells souvenirs, while the upper floors have restaurants. Here you can enjoy kaisen-don (seafood bowl) or ika-kamameshi (squid rice) made using fresh Sado seafood, as well as Sado Natural Burikatsu-don which goes superbly with the ago-dashi* soy stock and Koshihikari rice, and many other classics of Sado cooking.
      *Ago-dashi refers to dashi made from flying fish.

      Ogi Port Ogi Port
      1. Ogi Port → [100 minutes by high-speed ferry] → Naoetsu Port
      2. Naoetsu Port → [10 minutes by car] → Naoetsu Station
      3. Naoetsu Station → [50 minutes by train] → Myoko-Kogen Station
      4. Myoko-Kogen Station → [15 minutes by car] → Myoko Kogen Skycable

      11Myoko Kogen Skycable

      Enjoy an eleven-minute ride up to the peak station, 1,300 m above sea level, on this aerial cableway stretching a total distance of 2,607 m. From the top, you can see a magnificent panoramic view, including the nearby Mt. Madarao and Lake Nojiri. The reds and golds of the autumn leaves cover the mountainsides, making a spectacular sight. You can also enjoy these amazing views while relaxing at the café on the peak.

      Myoko Kogen Myoko Kogen Myoko Kogen
      1. Myoko Kogen Skycable → [5-minute walk] → Akakura Onsen

      12Overnight at Akakura Onsen or Shin-Akakura Onsen

      The Akakura Onsen and Shin-Akakura Onsen hot spring districts are located in the area by the base station of the Myoko Skycable. There are two hot spring types, a sulfate spring and a hydrogen carbonate spring, which moistens your skin without irritating it. An “onsen sommelier,” versed in the best ways to bathe and having extensive knowledge about hot springs, is on hand to answer all your questions. After enjoying a day’s sightseeing, relax in these fine springs to soak your cares away.

      The Myoko Tourist Office has information on accommodation and tourism.

      Akakura Onsen
  4. Day 4

      1. Akakura Onsen → [15 minutes by car] → Myoko-Kogen Station
      2. Myoko-Kogen Station → [25 minutes by train] → Arai Station
      3. Arai Station → [15-minute walk] → Kiminoi Brewery

      13Kiminoi Brewery

      The Kiminoi Brewery is a long-established sake brewery, founded in 1842. In winter, the area gets up to two meters of snow. This creates plenty of groundwater, making it an ideal environment for brewing the sake that Kiminoi has been carefully crafting for generations. The sake, made using traditional methods, has attracted many fans in Japan. If you call ahead of time, you can leisurely tour the historical brewery.

      Kiminoi Brewery
      1. Kiminoi Brewery → [40 minutes by car]→ Otaki-so

      14Try your hand at making soba at Otaki-so

      In addition to being able to enjoy soba and mountain vegetables, you can also relax in a day-use bath or even stay overnight. But the main attraction is making your own soba. If you make reservations, you can enjoy a simple one-hour class learning to make local Myoko-style ko-soba, with its strong flavor and aroma. One of the more unusual varieties of soba in Japan, it is becoming increasingly popular in the country, so why not take this opportunity to make some yourself?