Written by Steve Csorgo
4 Spectacular Day Trips From Niigata City
Niigata, known for its fabulous natural scenery and sake production, can be reached in about two hours from Tokyo. We introduce four towns that are easily accessible from Niigata City. Discover amazing sake culture, hot springs, ancient shrines, and the home town of nishikigoi carps.
Discover the Fabulous Culture and Nature of Niigata
For the adventurous traveler looking to fill their Japan holiday with fascinating day-trips, Niigata City is the perfect destination! The areas surrounding the city are renowned for their lush nature, deep histories, and unique cultures.
We’ve chosen four regions, all reachable by local trains, that show why you should add Niigata to your next Japan itinerary. These places are all rarely visited by international travelers, so if you’re desperate to get off the beaten track and find a fresh face of Japan, Niigata City is where to start!
Directly up the coast from Niigata City, the ancient town of Murakami is one of Japan’s most alluring hidden destinations. During mid-autumn, the city’s network of rivers and streams is taken over by the ‘salmon run.’ Many of these salmon returning to their birthplace are caught, hand-salted, and strung up around the town to ferment.
The image of Murakami’s hanging salmon makes for a surreal spectacle and is a sight unique even to the Japanese. Head to Kikkawa for the largest collection along with free salmon tasting and the chance to buy some for yourself.
Topping off Murakami’s charm is mouthwatering wagyu beef, premium green tea, intricate lacquerware, and two ancient sake breweries.
How to Get to Murakami
Murakami can be reached by train directly from Niigata Station, with the Limited Express Inaho taking about 50 minutes. Once you arrive at Murakami Station, a nearby tourist center will provide you with bus information or car rental options. The local tourist bus, which circles the city’s main attractions, also makes for a stress-free way to get around.
Yahiko is a sacred district of Niigata brimming with impeccable parkland, sprawling natural forests, and elegant hot springs. Its main gem is the central Yahiko Shrine, an ancient spiritual center with over two thousand years of history. For the extra adventurous, an additional hidden shrine on the summit of Mt. Yahiko can be reached via the Yahikoyama ropeway.
The area is also a hotspot for cherry blossoms in spring and autumn foliage. It can get quite busy during these times, so be prepared to face crowds. After your tiring day of exploring Yahiko’s intricate shrine grounds, you can refresh your feet in free foot baths on your way back to the station!
How to Get to Yahiko
The best way to get to Yahiko from Niigata Station is to take the JR Echigo Line and transfer at Yoshida Station. From there it is a short 10-minute train ride to Yahiko Station. Yahiko Shrine is a 15-minute uphill walk from the station.
Shibata is visited by many travelers every year for two reasons - hot springs and sake! Two incredible sake breweries, Ichishima Brewery and Kanemasu Brewery, are within walking distance from Shibata Station, while Kikusui Brewery, one of Niigata’s leading sake producers, is a 10-minute drive further away. All will treat you to a comprehensive tasting of the finest sake in Japan! Be sure to check their website before visiting for opening times and tour information.
If you want to enjoy the hot springs, Shibata’s natural onsen are concentrated in the town of Tsukioka, which is a 15-minute taxi ride from Shibata Station. This mystical district bursts with gorgeous traditional hotels and boutique shopping. Many of these hotels have ‘day-trip’ packages that allow you to use their hot springs without spending the night. My recommendation would be the long-established Akebono, in the center of town.
How to Get to Shibata:
Shibata Station can be reached from Niigata Station via the Limited Express Inaho in just 20 minutes. The local Hakushin Line, which runs a bit longer at 35 minutes, will also take you there.
Ojiya is the birthplace of the exquisite nishikigoi carp. After a genetic mutation, the people of Ojiya bred the formally dark-skinned edible carp into the stunning decorative fish we know today. The Nishikigoi Village details this fascinating history along with an aquarium hosting hundreds of these cute, ever-hungry creatures.
Ojiya also has a very proud culture of bullfighting and kimono weaving, both of which are aptly displayed throughout the township. For those on a gourmet adventure, Ojiya’s ramen and unique hegi soba (served in a wooden vessel called hegi) are renowned Japan-wide!
Gyo-ten, an Ojiya ramen restaurant known for their so-called ‘aggressive’ ramen, stack their bowls with mouthwatering meats and hand-cut noodles soaked in a rich, savory broth. If you only have time for one meal, this is where to go!
How to Get to Ojiya
Ojiya can be reached by taking the JR Shin'etsu Line from Niigata City to Nagaoka Station and transferring to the JR Joetsu Line. The whole journey will take about an hour and a half. Once you arrive at Ojiya, the Nishikigoi Village is a 30-minute walk or 10-minute taxi ride.
Niigata Is So Easy to Get to!
One of Niigata’s strongest assets is its convenience! From Tokyo Station, a roughly two-hour ride on the Joetsu Shinkansen will take you straight to Niigata Station. From there all of these day-trip areas can be reached by local or express trains. This convenience, combined with boundless beauty and fascinating attractions, make Niigata ripe to become Japan’s next big travel destination!