This Cathedral (also known as Christ the King Cathedral) was built in 1885. This year, 2012, was the 100th anniversary for the Niigata Diocese and 50th for when the church became the cathedral for Akita, Yamagata and Niigata Prefecture. The church has an English speaking priest of which mass in English is offered every first Sunday of the month at 12 Noon (usually). Other masses are all in Japanese.
My wife goes there all the time. I go sometimes.
This place is cool! In fact, I think it's even better and more extensive than the Palace of Fine Arts EXPLORATORIUM in San Francisco, California (which I've been to 10 times or so (I used to work for the YMCA which takes children to places like this for summer camp)). Niigata Science Museum spans several floors and is made up of numerous rooms broken down into various scientific fields: Astronomy, Paleontology, Archeology, Geology, Oceonography, Biology, Micro-biology, Chemistry, Physics, Electrical science, Computer science, Robotics, etc. There is so much to do there. It is one of the best places to take kids and its equally fun for adults, too.
The museum also has a supurb Planetarium (of course: nararation is in Japanese) but, even if you won't be able to understand, the visual imagery is astounding. The Planetarium costs extra.
Entrance fees are as follows:
the Science Musuem
Adults: 500 yen, children: 300 yen
Adults: 200 yen, children: 100 yen
Hakusan Shrine is Niigata city's most prominent Shinto shrine (it is apparently dedicated to the
white snake god... or so I've heard). People flock to here during New Years, during the Sakura festival, and during the Niigata festival times.
Hakusan Shrine is worth seeing all season round. Niigata experiences 4 seasons and as so, Hakusan's beauty is transformed likewise in all of these different seasons being frozen over in Winter to blooming with cherry blossoms and peach tree blossoms in spring to a enjoying a nice walk there in the summer to seeing the leaves fall in Autumn. It's a nice place to go any time of the year.
Hakusan also has a small children's play ground and a cages containg some indigenous monkeys.
No swimming. Don't feed the sharks.
Niigata boasts the biggest Aquarium along the Sea of Japan. There are a large variety of aquatic animals to see, including penguins, dolphins, sea otters, sharks, and more.
There's also an underwater tunnel for your viewing pleasure.
Many of the fish are inedible.
It's open from 9 AM - 5 PM (6 PM in Summer).
It's open year round.
(It's closed on New Years Day and the 1st Thursday of March and the following day).
It's located near the beach. Also, nearby are Niigata's unique Popolo Ice Cream Shop and Gokoku Shrine.
Go to Niigata City Performing Arts Center, where you can enjoy an afternoon or an evening at the Symphony. The Concert Hall seats up to 1,890 people. Sometimes they have free concerts.
Unlike back home (in San Francisco) I noticed that people here don't always dress up. Surprisingly many people come in whatever suits them (jeans, shorts, tank tops, etc.). I don't recommend this as I haven't had a chance to go to enough of the symponies to validate that this always happen. I've only been to them in the afternoons when I didn't have to worry about my work schedule. I recommend that you dress up regardless because it fits the air of the symphony much better.
Beverages and light snacks are available at concession stands during breaks.
Local produce is well and truly on display here, and there are plenty of food stalls here.
Great place to try some local sake, and all kinds of foods, and it's set in very nice settings, with the river, and also some nice flower gardens.
Well worth a visit.
The Shinano River is Japan's longest, and in Niigata, there are regular passenger services down the river to Furusato Mura.
It's a very pleasant 40-50 minute trip, and well recommended.
1500 yen for a day pass.
Bandai Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in Niigata City. It's not that large but this is one
of my most favorite areas to see in the city.
In 2004, Bandai Bridge (Bandai Bashi) was recognized as an important cultural asset. The lights and signs were replaced to reflect how it originally looked in 1929 at the time that it was reconstructed using granite.
The Shinano River is the longest in Japan and it runs through Niigata City. You can take a leisurly stroll or a jog or ride your bike down the river and just enjoy the sites through the city. And it is beautiful both day and night and safe at night too. You will see couples strolling down the street at night totally involved in themselves. In the spring time the cherry blossoms come out along the river on both sides and make for some great strolling and picture taking and just chillin out!
When arriving to Niigata via train, take the bus or walk 30 minutes to the port area and you can take a ship to Sado Island. You should stay overnight here to visit Sado Island. A day trip from Tokyo via bullet train gives you too little time.
Be aware though that the sail tickets are not cheap. 2 people easily 100 bucks.
Niigata City's biggest firework's show is done during the week preceeding O-bon, almost always this takes place on August 9th. Fireworks typically commence around 7:15 to 7:30.
Good seats are available at the top of Billboard Plaza and include a few cans of something to drink plus a premade bento style dinner.
However, most people just sit along the riverside like this an enjoy the fireworks on the grass along the banks of the Shinano River. Probably around 30,000 to 40,000 people go downtown on this night to witness the 2 hour firework show every year.
Not quite as impressive as Next 21 or the Nikko Hotel, Niigata ken chou (Prefecture Building) still provides one of the most impressive all around views of Niigata city. On the downside, the observation deck is only open from 8 to 5 so it's not available for night viewing. However, on a good day it offers a killer view.
This building is the only surviving Meiji era structure modelled after British Parliament Houses
This building, modeled after British Parliament Houses, is the only surviving Meiji era structure of its kind. Today it acts as a museum housing photographs and documentation of the changes that both the city and prefecture of Niigata have undergone during the last 150 years or so.
Of particular interest are the photographs showing what the city used to look like and how the width of the Shinano River and the length of Bandai Bridge has dramatically changed in less than 100 years. Also, present are photos depicting the disasters Niigata has experienced over the years from floods to earthquakes.
As denoted by some photos, Niigata was once a city with a considerable number of canals. Those streets still bare the name of having been canals but are completely paved over today.
Also inside the former government hall are the former meeting chambers of the government still preserved as they were.
There are many Buddhist temples found throughout Niigata. Good times to visit a Buddhist temple include but are not limited to: Setsubun (in February: a time for casting out evil spirits), New Years (where you've a chance to participate in the ringing of the bell one out of 144 times), and the local Buddhist temple's festival (which varies depending on the temple).
This shrine was built to honor the 'spirits' of the fallen war dead killed during the Boshin War of 1867-68 (before the Meiji Restoration). The Daimyo and his troops were killed in battle in the area of what is today Sekiya on what is also today Niigata Island (very close to where I live today).
The path from the gate (Tori) to the Shrine (Jinja) is approximately 100 metters. The Shrine is beautiful and a good place to take in the surrounding pine trees and a good starting point for seeing other nearby park areas.
It's takes a little less than 20 minutes by bus from Niigata Station. (180 yen one way)