Niigata Prefecture is made up of Echigo and Sado provinces. In the history of Japan, this area was governed by Uesugi Kenshin during the warring era (Sengoku). Niigata is known best for its wonderful rice and its world famous sake. As I am a great fan of Japanese sake or nihonshu and of good rice, Niigata is my mecca.
The sake breweries in Niigata produce fine premium sakes such as Koshino Kanbai, Hakkaisan, Kikusui, Kubota, and Shimeharitsuru, to mention just a few, mostly made of premium sake rice or sakamai such as Yamadanishiki and Gohyakumangoku and the water from the snow in the area.
Niigata’s rice is also world famous, with a sheen and texture and smell and taste that is so unique. A rice like koshihikari which is now being grown in California, is simply not the same, because the rice in Japan must experience the special conditions of the cold winter snow of the Niigata area.
Niigata is accessible from Tokyo by train and bus. The Shinkansen Max Toki will take just under 3 hours from Tokyo to Niigata City.
Sado Island is about 1 hour by jet foil from Niigata Harbor in the Sea of Japan, and is best known for its gold mines. In Japan history, fron first discovery in 1601, the Sado gold mine continuously produced gold until its closure in 1989, a period of over 380 years.
There is a room in the Sado Museum that has a large plexiglass box containing a solid gold ingot. You are able to stick your hand though a hole in the box and attempt to pull the ingot out of the box. Believe me, it is very difficult to do so. My daughter, who has small hands, was able to get the ingot to the hole, but even she was unable to pull the ingot through.
The island is also a source of hot springs onsens. For an unforgettable experience, take a ride on a tarai bune(wooden bath tub boat)paddled by a Japanese grandma. My special thanks to a dear friend, Mrs. Jo Matsu of Marukai Hawaii Tours and the rest of our tour buddies. You can contact Jo Matsu at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on hands-on Japan tours.