Translated by Lester Somera
Five Ways To Experience The History And Food Of Niigata City
Written by Maki
Blessed by the bounty of mountains, rivers and the ocean, Niigata is a flourishing port city. Here are five spots to experience its history and food scene.
Niigata City is the largest city on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The city is famous for its bounty of seafood and mountain vegetables, thanks to the surrounding ocean, rivers and mountains. It also flourished as an ocean-facing port town, and traces of that history still remain today. In this article, we will introduce five places where you can enjoy the best that Niigata has to offer visitors.
What Kind of Place Is Niigata City?
Situated between the Sea of Japan and two major rivers - the Shinano and the Agano - Niigata prospered as a nexus for marine transport.
The Bandai Bridge, which runs across the Shinano River, is a symbol of the city, and is both a draw for tourists and a beloved landmark for residents. For more on the bridge, check out our A Close Look At The Bandai Bridge, Niigata's Symbol article.
Five Things You Have to Do in Niigata
Here, we’ll show you five things you should definitely do when you come to Niigata.
1. Savor the Seafood
When you come to Niigata, trying the local food is a must. We recommend visiting Pia Bandai, a multipurpose complex for visitors to the city. Pia is home to a fish market and souvenir shops that stock agricultural produce and various manufactured products, as well as a BBQ zone that houses various eateries and sushi restaurants operated by fishery co-ops.
In the seafood area, there are rows and rows of fresh fish, caught in the coastal waters. The winter is the best season to enjoy richly-fatty crabs, the sweet shrimp known as Nanban-ebi, famous high-grade sea bass and other delicious seafood.
Surrounded as it is by rivers, Niigata is the only place that can offer visitors such a wealth of salmon. Murakami City in northern Niigata has a history of salmon cuisine that dates back over a thousand years, and tourists to the area can eat deeply savory salmon products.
The Echigo Plain is blanketed with many paddy fields, and Niigata boasts the highest rice production in the country. Many varieties of rice from around the prefecture are gathered here, but rice from Iwafune, near Niigata City, is said to be particularly delicious.
2. Experience the History of Marine Transport in the City
There is a place in Niigata where you can experience the former glory of the once-prosperous port city, even today. Erected in 1869, the Former Niigata Customs House is a designated Important Cultural Property. The building was used to handle customs duties at the Niigata port after Japan opened its borders to trade.
While you can still check out the exterior, the interior of the customs house is currently closed for renovations and is expected to reopen in December 2018.
Located on the same grounds, Daishi Bank’s former Sumiyoshi branch building was built in 1927, and is currently open to the public. The counters used at the time remain in the building, and you can see the bank’s old extravagance for yourself.
The Ozawa house was both residence and place of business for the Ozawa family, which amassed its fortunes through merchant shipping, rice trading and other endeavors. Designated as a Niigata cultural property, the building’s interior and the garden outside are open to the public.
3. Pay Your Respects to the Local Guardian Deities of Niigata
Beloved by Niigata residents for generations, Hakusan Shrine has a history as the home of the guardian deities of agriculture, sea travel and marriage ties.
Two fires eradicated the documents from when Hakusan Shrine was erected, but it is said that the shrine was built around 1000 AD. Beautifully vivid flowers are depicted on the ceiling of the main hall, which was built in 1638.
The Niigata Old Parliament Building is located adjacent to Hakusan Shrine. Constructed in 1883 as the Diet building for Niigata’s prefectural assembly, it is a designated Important Cultural Property.
A section of the interior is available for public viewing, and you can see where government ceremonies were held in the past, among other places.
4. Check Out Niigata-Related Anime and Manga
Niigata is known for producing manga artists and anime creators. Fujio Akatsuka, creator of “Osomatsu-kun,” Rumiko Takahashi, creator of “Urusei Yatsura,” and Shinji Mizushima, creator of “Dokaben,” are all from Niigata City, and Nobuhiro Watsuki of “Rurouni Kenshin” fame is from Nagaoka City in Niigata Prefecture. Niigata is a natural breeding ground for manga artists.
In addition to being able to check out Niigata-related authors and their works, visitors to the Niigata Manga House can participate in manga-making workshops and more.
5. Look Out on the City from a Free Observatory Room
Niigata’s tallest building, the Toki Messe, has a free viewing room where you can get a sweeping view of the city.
You can watch the Shinano River down below, and see all the way to Sado Island in the distance, floating in the Sea of Japan.
Some people may think Niigata City is all about rice and sake. However, the city has plenty of highlights where you can experience a combination of Niigata’s past glory and its modern culture. When you come to Niigata Prefecture, how about enjoying the sights of Niigata City?