If you want to see a different side of Japan, you might want to head away from the large city centers and branch out a little bit. Niigata is one of my favorite prefectures for both smaller city life and also the chance to enjoy wide open spaces and getting away from it all for a while. Here are five quick reasons why Niigata is a great prefecture to visit during your Japan vacation.
Some of Japan's best (and most accessible from Tokyo) ski resorts are here
There's Gala Yuzawa, Myoko and Naeba to name a few! If you're looking for somewhere to spend part of your winter vacation time in Japan, Niigata makes a great addition to your itinerary.
They grow some of Japan's best rice in this region
You might be saying "but rice is rice, right?"
Not at all! Niigata grows koshihikari rice, which is nurtured by all that super pure snowmelt water - and there really is a difference in taste! If you want some of the best rice you'll ever have the pleasure of eating, Niigata is the spot to do it.
Which leads to another thing - incredible sake!
Naturally, if you're growing great rice, you're bound to have some great sake. There are breweries dotted across the prefecture, and the taste of Niigata sake is often said to be crisper, drier, and lighter tasting than other sakes produced in Japan. Niigata produces the third largest volume of all sake in the country (only beaten out by Hyogo and Kyoto Prefectures) so if you're in the area be sure to try some different varieties - you won't be disappointed!
If winter (and snow) isn't your preferred season, they've got one of Japan's best fireworks festivals in the summer
Not everyone is a fan of skiing, snowboarding, and chilly temperatures. If you're going to be in Japan over the summer months, you'll definitely need to check out a summer festival - and Niigata Prefecture (specifically the city of Nagaoka) is home to one of Japan's most incredible fireworks displays. It's still a while off, but the 2018 Nagaoka Fireworks are to be held on the 2nd and 3rd of August, if you need time to plan ahead.
They've even got great onsen facilities!
If you want to soak away some stress while you're on vacation, Niigata has you covered there too. There are loads of onsen facilities across the prefecture - and plenty of them are located right near snow resorts, which makes for a nice way to warm up after a day of skiing or boarding.
Niigata truly is a bit of a hidden gem in Japan - it's easily accessible by shinkansen from Tokyo, but adds a different dimension to a Japanese vacation away from the heavily trafficked tourist areas. I hope if you have the chance to visit there that you'll enjoy some of these local experiences!