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Called Echigo in ancient times, Niigata Prefecture has supported traditional Japanese cuisine as one of the main producers of rice. The area is also known for production of metal products. Smithery, now popular in the central Niigata cities of Sanjo and Tsubame, has its origins in Japanese nail making undertaken by farmers in the off-season in the Edo Period. Various metal products including knives and tableware are produced in this region in the present day.
It takes about one hour by high-speed boat to reach Sadogashima Island from mainland Japan. Sadogashima is a large island and popular sightseeing destination in Niigata Prefecture. Beautiful, old rural scenery remains on this island where initiatives to cohabitate with endangered Toki birds are being undertaken.
A famous historical site on this island is the Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mountain). Vast amounts of gold and silver were mined from this mountain to be used as a source of money by the Edo Shogunate. You can take tours to visit reproductions of mining sites. In recent years, initiatives to preserve buildings from the mining days and the surrounding area have been undertaken, and the historical area around the Sado mine is now listed as a candidate UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yahiko Shrine, located to the northwest of Sanjo City, is surrounded by the deep forests of Mt. Yahiko. It is an ancient shrine which is described in the famous compilation of poems, the Manyoshu. The god Amano-Kaguyama-no-Mikoto, the deity of development of the Echigo area, is worshipped here. The shrine is popular as a “power spot” that is believed to bring romance.
In the surrounding area is the Rokuen Garden that has cute deer that comes near visitors, and Yahiko Park where you can enjoy the scenery that changes from season to season. The area is always busy with visitors who enjoy taking a walk.
Bandai Bridge, located near the mouth of Shinano River, has a beautiful set of six arches that span across the river surface. The bridge, made of reinforced concrete that was rare in those times, was completed in 1926. It has been designated as Japan’s Important Cultural Property, the second such designation given to a bridge on a national road after Nihonbashi Bridge.
This bridge has granite side panels which not only give it a modern look but also provide added strength that allowed it to survive the great Niigata Earthquake. It has become a symbol of Niigata City along with the restored pre-war streetlights.
The popular local food in this city of smithery is Tsubame Ramen noodles. It was invented to satisfy the appetites of the craftsmen that worked in the local workshops. It features thick, salty noodles that don’t get soft easily. The hearty soup contains pork back fat and does not get cold easily, a feature of soups seen in area that get heavy snow. Each noodle shop has its own recipe such as fish-based or pork-based soup. Why not try out and enjoy the different flavors provided by the shops?