Niigata is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, such as enduring mountain ranges and the longest river in Japan— the Shinano River. While nature lovers can have a blast exploring out-of-town spots, sports enthusiasts may choose to enjoy paddling away in a traditional tub boat on Sado Island. Niigata is a natural theme park for all ages and for all seasons!
Visit peaks from the 100 famous mountains of Japan
Located in Niigata’s Myoko City, both Mt. Myoko and Mt. Hiuchi are listed under the 100 famous Japanese mountains. The amazing mountain biodiversity is perfect for those seeking inspiration, relaxation and a challenge. We suggest that you visit Koyaike for a panoramic view of Mt. Hiuchi, and if you’re still up for a challenge, try climbing Mt. Myoko. You can also take the Myoko Kogen Sky Cable to the foot of the mountain for a soothing dip in the 200-year-old Akakura hot spring.
*Please note that attempting Mt. Myoko and Hiuchi at the same time requires experience and optimal physical condition.
Sasagamine Kogen Hiking Gate
Access: Take the direct bus from Myoko Kogen Station on the Echigo Tokimeki Railway bound for Sasagamine Kogen and get off at Sasagamine. *Please refer to the Myoko Tourism official website for an updated bus schedule.
Myoko Kogen Sky Cable
Operation period: mid-July to early November
Hours: weekdays: 8am-4pm (last ride up 3.30pm); weekends and holidays: 8am-4.30pm (last ride up 4pm)
Fee: Junior high school students and above: ¥1,300 one way and ¥1,800 round trip; elementary school students and under ¥700 one way and ¥900 round trip
Website: akr-sky.com (Japanese)
An island paradise waiting for you to discover
Awashima is a tiny island with a population of less than 400. In spite of this, it is full of marine resources and charming vistas. The 23-kilometre cycling path takes you on a scenic ride around the entire island, allowing you to take in Awashima’s sights and sounds. The island is a paradise for outdoor activities such as bird watching, horse riding, sunbathing, scuba diving and more. By the way, watching fixed-net fishing, catching octopuses and making traditional dish wappani are experiences you don’t want to miss in Awashima.
Access: Iwafune Port is a 15-minute drive from Murakami Station on the JR Uetsu Main Line. You can also take a bus from Murakami Station, get off at Iwafunekamioomachi Stop and walk for 10 minutes to the port. The high-speed boat bound for Awashima takes about 55 minutes and the normal boat takes 90 minutes.
Website: awa-isle.jp (Japanese)
To cook this simple yet flavourful dish, just place the grilled fish, chopped green onion and a bowl made out of curved wood, and then add water and heated stones
Boating experience straight out of an animation movie
The history of using tub boats for fishing (tarai-bune) in Sado Island dates back to 150 years ago. In the past, the islanders used to cut wash tubs or miso barrels in half to make boats for fishing seaweed, shellfish and abalone. Although few people use tub boats for fishing today, tourists are encouraged to sign up for a fun steering course at the ports of Ogi, Yajima and Kyojima or Shukunegi.
Yajima Taiken Koryukan
Access: A 70-minute drive from Ryotsu Port
Shinano River Rafting Tour
With a total length of 367 kilometres, Shinano River is Japan’s longest river, flowing through the prefectures of Yamanashi, Saitama, Nagano and Niigata before reaching the ocean. The middle reach of the water travels through Tokamachi City, a popular rafting spot offering both adrenalin-pumping stretches as well as calm and relaxing rides. Hop on the rubber boat at designated areas for a cool dip in the clear waters!
Available from mid-April to mid-November.
Closed on Thursdays (except in August the facility is open every day)
Fee: ¥6,000 for elementary school students and ¥7,000 onwards for middle school students and above
Access: A 20-minute drive from Tokamachi Station on the Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line
Address: 4197 Miyanakaonore, Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture
Website: www.j-os.jp/tours/rafting/tokamachi-hd (Japanese)
*Reservations must be made two days in advance
A day of adventure right in the middle of nature
Daigenta Canyon, the area stretching from Lake Daigenta to the foot of Mt. Daigenta, is a popular campsite and favorite destination for tourists drawn to its diverse geographic features. The 1.5-kilometre path at Lake Daigenta offers a stunning view of the Oriental Matterhorn—Mt. Daigenta. Canoeing and stand up paddling (SUP) are popular water activities that you simply must try.
Daigenta Canyon Camping Ground
Fee: Please refer to the official website as the rental fee depends on rental period and items rented
Address: 3064-17 Oaza-tsuchitaru, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata Prefecture
Access: A 20-minute drive from Echigo-Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen. You can also board a bus at the station bound for the campground, which takes about 30 minutes.
Website: daigenta.net (Japanese)
YOC Yuzawa Outdoor Center
Address: Daigenta Canyon Camping Ground, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata Prefecture
Website: daigenta.net/yoc/index.html (Japanese)