雪国

This is a report from my trip to the 新潟県 (Niigata-Ken) and 新潟市 (Niigata City).

I left 松本together with Yang by local train. The lady at the tourist information center had told us it would take only 3 to 4 hours to Niigata City. Apparently she didn’t do her homework ; it took us about  6 hours.  First we travelled to 長野、then to 長岡 and finally to 新潟. Though the journey took a considerable amount of time, it was well worth it. 新潟県 is famous for its snow in the winter, and there was a lot of it. Several meters had fallen in the Southern part of the 県. Which of course made for some beautiful scenery. Part of the journey also took us a long the 日本海側 (Japanese Sea coast). The sight of the Sea was more than welcome after being in the mountains for so long.

We arrived in Niigata City ( a city of 812.000 residents, the largest on the 日本海側) a little bit later as expected, so we settled for finding our 旅館 (ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn) and dinner for the day.
The next days where filled with sightseeing. Among others, I visited the 日本海タワー (which offers a view over Niigata city and the coastline);  白山神社 and  公園 which was just across from our ryokan ;  the House of Northern Culture (I snuk in for free heheh) ; the famous exposition/music hall called Ryuutopia ; Next 21, the tallest building in the city and a hyper modern shopping center etc. From a distance we also saw the Big Swan stadium where J-League team Albirex Niigata plays its games (it also hosted a few World cup 2002 games) . Bandai bridge, the symbol of the city, was not impressive at all.  In May this city is hosting the G8 by the way.

The most interesting thing we saw was by far the 弥彦神社 (Yahiko Jinja ), rumored to be the most beautiful in the prefecture. It was snowing very hard that day so there were almost no people there. This provided a real relaxing atmosphere.  We also tasted some Niigata delicatessens ; sushi, sashimi and of course Sake.
The road home was long and exhausting but I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery again, so I didn’t really mind.

It was a good and relatively cheap trip. The ryokan by the way was very comfortable.  On the other hand, Niigata city, Japans 16th largest overall, was relatively dead. Parts of the city seemed in decay and not economically viable. On the other hand , some districts were blooming with business. All in all, I wouldn’t like to live there though. But having the Sea close by and loads of snow is nice I think.

On other news, my cousin is planning a Japan trip the end of March, so I will be accompanying him. This means Ill take it easy until he comes and relax and study a bit here in 松本. I will be visiting 長野 in the coming days though so ill make a report about that later.

Greetings.

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