Geographical Information of Niigata

Niigata Prefecture has a population of about 2.3 million (as of October, 2014) and is located in the middle of the west coast of Honshu, the main island of Japan. It is situated approximately 350 km directly north of metropolitan Tokyo and is connected with Tokyo via the Joetsu Shinkansen (high-speed Japanese bullet train) Line and the Kanetsu Expressway.

The city of Niigata is where Niigata University of Health and Welfare is located. It has a population of about 810,000 (as of November, 2014) and is at the center of politics, economy and culture of Niigata Prefecture, which has a long history of interactions with foreign countries such as China, South Korea, Mongolia, and Russia. Niigata City is also an ever-expanding international transportation center on the west coast of Japan.

Not many foreign tourists may visit Niigata as their sole destination of the trip, but the prefecture is famed for its quality rice and sake. Many Japanese households purchase these items. The region is also steeped in history and tradition. The 'Snow Country', as Niigata is known from the story by the Nobel Prize winning writer Kawabata Yasunari, is famous throughout Japan and has inspired countless writers, poets and artists. If you want a glimpse into a rural Japan through the car window of an old one-carriage train, Niigata is the place to visit.

Niigata Prefecture, which consists of four regions, Kaetsu, Chuetsu, Joetsu and Sado, has very beautiful mountains and fertile plains. Many parts of Kaetsu, Chuetsu and Joetsu regions are mountainous, but even in such places people of Niigata Prefecture have tried to make rice fields. You can see beautiful 'rice terraces' on steep slopes, or Senmaida in Japanese, which literally means "thousand rice fields".

This prefecture has also many beautiful beaches. The length of its coastline is about 635 km, which is longer than those of several countries such as Bangladesh, Kuwait and Holland. Here you can enjoy very tasty sea food, and in fact quite a few tourists are very impressed by our tasty 'sushi' and 'sashimi' delicacies. On the beaches people can enjoy swimming, fishing, surfing and jet-skiing. The sea Niigata faces on the west is the Sea of Japan, and you can appreciate a truly beautiful sunset if you are lucky (or while bathing in a hot spring).

There is a huge river that crosses the central part of Niigata Prefecture. This is the longest and largest river in Japan and is called the Shinano River. The river has two faces. One is the face of the Mother of Life. The river brings fertile soil, which is the source of our abundant rice harvest and is home to numerous plants and animals. The other face is that of the river that overflows. Up until 1990 the river had taken many lives due to its devastating flooding. However, ever since the construction of the two waterways at Ohkozu and Sekiya, the river has been tamed and much gentler. The people of Niigata will never forget the great hardships our forebears went through, though. Niigata City, the capital of Niigata Prefecture, is situated at the end of the river. With such thought in mind, you can appreciate a panoramic view of the city, including the mountains, the sea and the river, from the observatory room on top of "Toki Messe."