The Japan Times is running a banner ad from the Niigata tourist agency. The offer is an all-expense trip to the prefecture for a blogger, as long as the blogger writes about his or her experience on the tour!
A friend of mine from back home orginally came from Niigata. So when I first arrived in Japan and had that nice Japan Rail Pass (oh, how do I miss that thing!), I took a trip out there by Shinkansen. Just to say I had gone! Since it really wasn’t part of a plan or a trip.
In fact, what happened was I missed my last train back to the hotel I stayed in, in Chiba Prefecture, and needed a place to sleep overnight. The Shinkansen was an overnight one, that arrived in Niigata in the morning.
I’ll say this much: it is some nice country if you get a chance to climb over the mountains and get to the Japan Sea side of the country. I only spent a very short time there, a couple of hours, but the trip was worth it to see a more authentic, less internationalized maybe, part of Japan.
Most of the outer regions from the Kantou area, west and northwest, want the tourism trade. So whoever picks up that Niigata offer, you are going to have a good time there. And so in honesty, you better write the place up as a “must do”. Especially for those who have a Rail Pass and want to see Japan.
There is Niigata City and then the rest of Niigata. Niigata is a fairly large city by Japan standards. Safe and clean. The countryside itself is beautiful, it has a lot of charm, a kind of agricultural peacefulness. It’s not Kantou, so you are away in large measure. I know Sado Island is out there somewhere. It was famous either for an Edo era mine or as an island that people who fell out politically were exiled to. Now it’s popular just to visit.
Nagano is of course the better known skiing locale. But the sense I have is because Niigata is less known, it offers the better experience and the better deal.
[Update: Oh oh oh! And the sake—almost forgot! It’s one of the things the region is known for, the rice wine. With names like “Fifty Storm Mountain”, which my friend A0san from back home shared with me once. It was fantastic. If you try to find “Fifty Storm Mountain” on the internet, though, I’m not sure you’ll get it. I think a lot of these are local brews, and you have to go there to enjoy it. Or know someone from Niigata.]