A sophisticated sake capital, Niigata is an intoxicating, creative place of Japanese traditions and flavours. Learn of the many crafts and creativities that are practised here, from kite-making to alcohol fermentation and ceramic work, and immerse yourself in the beautiful coastline and waterfall-laced mountains of Niigata prefecture. The city evolves with each season, taking on a new appearance - whether it's the thick layers of snow during winter, or the cherry blossoms of spring. Look out for the gorgeous curved black roof tiers of Shibata Castle, rising from a picturesque bed of pale-pink flowers.
Sitting overlooking the Sea of Japan, out towards the intrigues of Sado Island, where the rare Toki bird - with its scythe-like beak - lives protected. This busy port city is famous for the high-quality and pure taste of its rice. As a result, sake produced here is among Japan's finest, and distilleries will teach you the artistry behind its creation, and to appreciate the subtle flavours. Pia Bandai market is a bustling place to take a stroll and sip a morning coffee. Japan’s first public park, Hakusan Park was built in 1873 and is perfect for whiling away an afternoon, among drifting lotus flowers and swaying trees. Appreciate a magical tea ceremony in the Edo-era Shimizu-en Gardens, or savour the tranquillity of the peaceful Hakusan Shrine - dedicated to the god of marriage.