Translated by Greg
2-Day Yamagata And Niigata Adventure - Hot Springs, Seafood, And Shrines!
Written by Kunihisa
Go to the Shonai area in Yamagata Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture's coast with the budget-friendly JR PASS (Nagano, Niigata area). This is a 2-day travel plan with a scenic train ride by the ocean, seafood, hot springs, and traditional performances.
Visit Yamagata and Niigata with the JR Pass (Nagano, Niigata area)!
Immerse yourself in the many fun activities in Yamagata Prefecture's Shonai area and Niigata Prefecture's coastal area by the Sea of Japan.
These regions boast delicious seafood, a train that passes by the beautiful coast, hot springs where you can watch the sunrise, autumn foliage, and the 2,400-year-old Yahiko Shrine.
If you are coming from Tokyo Station, we recommend the JR PASS (Nagano, Niigata area). Pass holders receive unlimited use of the Shinkansen and the limited express, rapid express, and local trains within the designated areas, and also the JR Bus and other transportation services.
This JR PASS can be purchased both within and also outside of Japan. For information on how to purchase this pass and use it properly, please refer to the link directly below.
■JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)
*The JR EAST PASS is only for visitors from abroad. Please note that Japanese citizens and foreign nationals residing in Japan are not eligible to purchase this pass.
Day One: 7:48 - Departure from Tokyo
Our two day, one night trip to Yamagata and Niigata leaves from Tokyo Station. We board the Joetsu Shinkansen Max Toki leaving at 7:48 am.
The travel time is two hours and 8 minutes, and we'll arrive at 9:56 am.
10:11- Board the Kira Kira Uetsu Train
The Kira Kira Uetsu is a train that operates between Niigata Station and Yamagata prefecture's Sakata Station. If you have the JR PASS (Nagano, Niigata area), you can board this train without any additional fares. As you head to your destination you can see the Sea of Japan.
However, please note you must make a reservation beforehand to ride. For details on making your reservation, please see official homepage.
On the train premises there's a kiosk that sells a bento box (1,080 yen including tax) made from local ingredients and regional sake.
13:00 - Walk Around Sakata, a Charming Port Town
Sakata City, a port city that prospered from foreign trade with kitamae-bune (*1), is filled with historical buildings that still stand today. Visitors here will be delighted with the charming, retro atmosphere.
We suggest taking a sightseeing taxi to see some fun spots between Sakata City and its neighboring city, Tsuruoka.
Sakata Station → Somaro, about five minutes by taxi
Somaro is a rennovated building that used to be known as Somaya, which was Sakata's leading luxury restaurant, or ryotei, starting from the Edo period. In 1996, it was officially registered as a tangible cultural property (architecture) by the Japanese government.
On the building's premises are a Japanese garden, art gallery, a souvenir shop, and other facilities.
We highly recommend seeing the Sakata maiko performance that is held once per day. The different appearances of the maiko are beautiful, especially with the musical accompaniment, making for a memorable experience. After watching the performance, you can have your picture taken with a maiko.
14:30 - Enjoy a World-Class Aquarium
After Somaro, let's go to the Tsuruoka City Kamo Aquarium.
Somaro → Kamo Aquarium, about thirty minutes by taxi
The Kamo Aquarium is famous for its jellyfish. There are 56 different varieties of jellyfish you can see at this aquarium. In fact, the number of jellyfish aquarium displays is the most in the world, which is even registered in the Guiness World Records.
We suggest trying the Jellyfish soft serve (350 yen including tax). The combination of the chewy jellyfish and the rich tasting soft serve ice cream will give you a new kind of taste and texture to enjoy.
17:00 - Check-in at Hot Springs Hotel and Enjoy a Beautiful Sunset
After a relaxing experience with the jellyfish, take a sightseeing taxi and go to Yunohama hot spring's Mankoen.
Let's bring our first day to a close by eating some tasty seafood and soaking in a hot spring.
Kamo Aquarium → Mankoen, about fifteen minutes by taxi.
Top right corner: Picture courtesy of Mankoen
For breakfast, you can enjoy freshly-baked mochi (rice cakes) and a set meal. There are fourteen different kinds of mochi which you can to try and eat until you're satisfied.
We recommend joining a tour to see the places introduced so far in this article. If you're interested, see SHONAI, WHICH FLOURISHED DUE TO THE KITAMAEBUNE, TRADITIONAL JAPANESE DANCE, AND JELLYFISH AQUARIUM + TAXI ＆YUNOHAMA-ONSEN LODGING PLAN.
Day Two: 8:30 - Yunohama Onsen Departure!
After a deluxe breakfast, take a taxi to Tsuruoka Station. From the station, ride the Limited Express Inaho train to head to our Day Two destinations in Niigata.
11:09 - Arrive at Niigata Station
Niigata is one of Japan's most famous rice production regions. Koshihikari brand rice and Japanese sake here in particular are known for their delicious flavor and high quality.
Today, we will take a sightseeing bus to visit the prominent destinations in the area.
12:10 - Yahiko Shrine - Enjoy the Fall Foliage at a Historical Spot
Niigata Station → Yahiko Shrine, about one hour by sightseeing bus.
Yahiko Shrine, which has a history of some 2,400 years, is thought to bring luck in love and in work. Every year 1,400,000 people make the pilgrimage to this shrine.
The ancient Tamanohashi, or "bridge for the gods" here is a bridge that only the gods can use. Visitors are not allowed to cross this bridge, but if you look at it up close, it gives off a mysterious and magical aura.
Yahiko Shrine → Yahiko Park, about fifteen minutes away on foot.
Yahiko Park is one of the best spots in Niigata for observing autumn foliage. Every year between late October and mid-November, the trees in the Maple Valley area of the park turn red and yellow. This is an ideal place for taking stunning photos.
13:30 - Teradomari Fish Market: Exquisite Seafood!
Yahiko Park → Teradomari Fish Market, about forty minutes by sightseeing bus.
Teradomari Fish Market, also known as "Sakana no Ameyoko" (fish shopping street), sells various food at low prices. Here, visitors will find fish, freshly-caught on that same day, sashimi meals and fresh kushiyaki (grilled ingredients on skewers), and oden.
Their canned fish, dried foods, and other processed products are also very popular and would make ideal souvenirs.
15:00 - CAVE D'OCCI WINERY - Locally-Produced Wine
Teradomari Fish Market → CAVE D'OCCI WINERY, about thirty minutes by sightseeing bus.
Located on a seven hectare plot of land, CAVE D'OCCI WINERY specializes in homemade wines, and ham and sausages made by a Niigata pork brand, Echigo mochi Pork.
16:30 - Imayo Tsukasa - Watch How Sake is Made
CAVE D'OCCI WINERY → Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery, about forty minutes by sightseeing bus.
Imayo Tsukasa is a sake brewery founded in 1767 and is located close to Niigata Station.
In addition to purchasing and tasting sake made with Niigata-grown rice, you can also participate in a tour and see the brewing process.
17:30 - Befco Bakauke Observation Room - Perfect for Niigata Sunsets
Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery → Befco Bakauke Observation Room, about ten minutes by sightseeing bus.
Soaring 125 meters high, Befco Bakauke Observation Room is an amazing viewpoint area from where you can gaze out at the Sea of Japan coastline. It's a popular place in Niigata for sunset photography and also as a date spot.
This observation deck high above Niigata City gives a 360-degree view that includes the picturesque scenery of Sado Island and the Gozurenpo mountain range.
After watching the romantic sunset, let's bring our two days, one night trip to an end.
We also recommend a one-day sightseeing excursion that leaves from Niigata Station. For those who are interested, please have a look at VIEWBUS FULL OF TASTY ITEMS NIIGATA (Food, Sake, and Takumi).
Go to Yamagata And Niigata with JR EAST PASS!
Check the site below for information for your next Tohoku trip!
Written by Chen
Sponsored by Yamagata Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture