Sunday, July 6, 2008

A visit to Niigata-shi 新潟市

This week I took a couple of extra days off, so Heather and I escaped Utsunomiya for a bit and headed about 170 miles northwest to the coastal city of Niigata. Seems like no-one had visited Niigata before so we were a little pressed to find info about what to do there. Niigata is known in Japan for its large port facility and growing great rice and therefore sake. Recently, it was famous for last years tragic earthquake. The reason we chose Niigata was for a visit to the Amano Gallery which is located nearby. We stayed at the Nikko Nigata hotel which was located at the mouth of the Shinano river and Sea of Japan. Our 27th floor room offered a good view which was unfortunately obscured somewhat by the muggy skies. While we were there we visited the Marine Pia, which bills itself as Japans largest(maybe the only?) aquarium facility on the West coast. It was a nice facility but a bit older and much smaller than the Oarai aquarium located in In Ibaraki. In the evenings we hit a couple of pretty entertaining bars, the first being Northern Lights owned by a Canadian guy named Dustin, seen here with his dog "lefty". This was a great bar with awesome food and a nice group of folks working and drinking there. The next night we went to a place called Rocks, which had a 70s-90s rock music request theme. The owner had pretty extensive music collection, which people could request, and then drunkenly dance to or sing along with as they felt. Another excellent time and we were again treated well by the staff. We spent several hours driving both North and South of the city both days in search of a decent beach. Much to our dismay, the beaches were similarly lined with surf breaks and not very clean as those on the east coast are. Niigata itself overall was a very nice, clean, and friendly city and perhaps we will visit again sometime if on that side of Japan. During the drive, we set the navi unit for the "no main highway" or scenic routes, and while it added a few hours both ways, we were routed through some very scenic mountainous areas of (our own)Tochigi, Fukashima, and Niigata prefectures.

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