Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Niigata - See World-Famous Art, Ride A Unique Bullet Train, And Relish Fine Cuisine!
Written by MATCHA-PR
Niigata Prefecture has become internationally renowned for its art with its museums and interesting exhibits. Read this article to find out about more about the unique art and delicious cuisine in Niigata, using the affordable JR EAST PASS.
Niigata Prefecture: A Destination for Art Lovers
Niigata Prefecture is known for its production of delicious Japanese rice, but it is also a great place to appreciate art. Art lovers should head for Niigata City Art Museum, which showcases a local collection of pieces related to Niigata, and Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art KINARE, which displays internationally-renowned artwork.
This tour starts from Niigata Station, a two hour ride on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station. Read this article to learn about the artwork and fine cuisine of Niigata, using the JR EAST PASS(Nagano, Niigata area).
9:00 – Start at Niigata Station
To visit the popular spots in Niigata City, take the Niigata City Kanko Junkan Bus (sightseeing loop bus). If you have any large luggage, stow it in the coin-operated locker at the station before embarking on the tour.
9:30 - Niigata City Art Museum for Culture, Gourmet Treats, and Gifts
From Niigata Station to Niigata City Art Museum - 30-minute bus ride
Be sure to visit this museum when you're hungry, as Kokage Cafe L'ombrage serves delicious bagels, made without eggs or dairy products. The miso bagel (346 yen including tax) is the most popular on the menu, and has a flavorful and enticing aroma, making it a satisfying choice.
The museum collection consists of approximately 4,800 works of art. Most of the artists of these pieces are from Niigata, or have a local connection to the prefecture.
You can also appreciate the architecture along with the artwork. The architect is Niigata-native Mayekawa Kunio, who is known as a pioneer and leader of Japanese modernism. Cloudy weather is common in Niigata, so the museum ceiling is painted a clear blue to cheer up the visitors.
Lu lu lu, the museum shop, is run by designers based in Niigata. The shop offers items related to the museum's collections and exhibitions, along with seasonal products.
Ukihoshi, a traditional confectionery of rice cakes covered in syrup, is the most popular dessert on the menu (410 yen including tax). It would also make a nice souvenir with its simple, sweet taste.
After enjoying the museum, head back to Niigata Station, and ride the Genbi Shinkansen to the next stop, Echigo-Yuzawa Station.
11:00 - Genbi Shinkansen: The World's Fastest Art Experience!
From Niigata City Art Museum to Niigata Station - 30-minute bus ride
From Niigata Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station - 50-minute Shinkansen ride
Photograph courtesy of JR East
Genbi Shinkansen, a remodeled version of the E3 type of train, is a train featuring artwork on its exterior and interior, connecting Niigata and Echigo-Yuzawa Stations. The stylish train was designed by the photographer and film director, Ninagawa Mika.
Photograph courtesy of JR East
The design of Car No. 11 is inspired by gokoku hojo (*1) and light, along with the speeding image of the Shinkansen.
*1 Gokoku hojo: A rich harvest of crops such as rice, wheat, and beans.
Photograph courtesy of JR East
Car No. 15 has unique seating which allows passengers to appreciate the works of art and the mystical atmosphere.
With the JR EAST PASS(Nagano, Niigata area), visitors can ride the Genbi Shinkansen with no additional charge.
12:15 - Ponshukan: Enjoy Fine Niigata Cuisine and Beverages
From Echigo-Yuzawa Station to Ponshukan - 1-minute walk
Ponshukan, a souvenir shop selling Niigata-based products, is located inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Don't miss this store when passing through the station. Those who enjoy adult beverages should stop by Kikizake Bansho, where visitors can sample 132 types of Japanese sake.
For lunch, go to Yukinto, famous for its bakudan onigiri, which is a large rice ball with a savory filling inside. All the onigiri is made from Koshihikari, a local rice product. Cooked on a stovetop, the rice is deliciously fragrant and has a nice texture.
KOJI-latte serves fermented drinks using koji (malted rice). These beverages are popular with both older and younger younger generations, as they are nutritious and come in smartly-designed cups. They are also popular on social media.
The small-size koji latte (390 yen including tax) and koji soft-served ice cream (380 yen including tax) are among the best-selling choices on the menu. They contain a faint fragrance of sake and a smooth texture.
After enjoying the various dishes at the station, use the Hokuhoku Line to go to Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art KINARE, located in Tokamachi.
14:15 - KINARE: A Museum Full of Dreamy Art in Niigata
From Echigo-Yuzawa Station to Tokamachi Station - 30-minute ride on Hokuhoku Line
From Tokamachi Station to KINARE - 10-minute walk
"Palimpsest: Pond of Sky" by Leandro Erlich/Photograph by Osamu Nakamura
Hara Hiroshi, who also designed the prominent Kyoto Station Building, is the architect of Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art KINARE. The museum was established in 2003. The square-shaped first floor is often used to hold special exhibitions.
"Rolling Cylinder, 2012" by Carsten Holler/Photograph by Osamu Nakamura
Permanent exhibitions are on the second floor. The corridor of red, white will test the visitors' sense of balance. Photographs of this piece are frequently uploaded on social network services.
"○ in □" by Massimo Bartolini featuring Lorenzo P. Bini/Photograph by Osamu Nakamura
KINARE is one of the sites for Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, a triennale exhibition held in Tokamachi and Tsunanmachi, Niigata Prefecture. The triennale's seventh exhibition was held in 2018, featuring 378 art pieces from 44 countries.
To find out the museum's current exhibition, please take a look at the official site. After KINARE, let's head back to Echigo-Yuzawa Station, and try the ashiyu (foot bath).
17:00 - Ashiyu Kannakuri: A Relaxing Footbath
From Tokamachi Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station - 30-minute ride on Hokuhoku Line
From Echigo-Yuzawa Station to Ashiyu Kannakuri - 7-minute walk
Echigo-Yuzawa is renowned for its onsen (hot springs). After walking around all day, try the free foot bath at Ashiyu Kannakuri.
If you really want to relax, stay the night at an onsen ryokan (Japanese-style inn) at Echigo-Yuzawa. Those interested in Echigo Onsen should read Strolling Around Echigo-Yuzawa.
A Cost-Efficient Ticket for Appreciating Art in Niigata
Photograph Courtesy of JR East
JR EAST PASS(Nagano, Niigata area) allows the user to ride all the JR trains (including the Genbi Shinkansen) and buses in the designated area. For further information, please check the link below.
JR EAST PASS(Nagano, Niigata area)
** JR EAST PASS can be purchased only by travelers visiting Japan. Please note that Japanese nationals and foreign nationals residing in Japan without a tourist visa cannot purchase this pass.
Go to Yamagata And Niigata with JR EAST PASS!
Yamagata and Niigata
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Written by Chen
Sponsored by Yamagata Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture