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Niigata History, Japan

On the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, Niigata is a lively port city facing the Sea of Japan. Niigata is located in the middle of Japan’s Snow Country, and it is an excellent destination for those who are interested in winter sports. Niigata is also famous for its sake, and even has a museum dedicated to this national drink. The hot springs of Niigata are delightful, especially in winter, when you can admire the scenery. Despite its lack of notable tourist attractions, Niigata is a very pleasant city, steeped in history and tradition. Take a walk on the banks of the Shinano River under the majestic gingko trees and do some-people watching, visit museums, parks or Sado Island. This Niigata History Guide briefly presents the history of this lively city.

Niigata History Guide - Early History and Foundation

Although there is evidence that the surroundings of Niigata were inhabited during the Jomon era, the Japanese prehistory, the first settlement was established in the 7th century AD, according to Nihon Shoki, the oldest book of Japanese history. Niigata itself was founded in the 16th century as a port city on Shinano River. In the 17th century, the courses of the Rivers Shinano and Agano were changed so that they both converged into the Sea of Japan in the same point. From that period on, Niigata became the most important port city on the coast of the Sea of Japan. In the 18th century, there was a failed attempt to drain Agano River, which luckily resulted in the development of land suitable for the cultivation of rice. Nowadays, Niigata is known not only for the quality of its sake, but also for its rice, the main ingredient of sake.

Niigata History Guide - Modern Period and Present

In 1858, Niigata was one of the five cities that were opened for international trade through the Japan-U.S. commerce agreement. However, the port didn’t actually open until 1969. In 1886 the first Bandai Bridge was built over Shinano River. The current bridge was built in 1929, but much like its precursor, it is a prized national property. Niigata had a key role in World War II, due to its strategic position between Tokyo and the Sea of Japan.

Niigata could have suffered the same tragedy as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but escaped though a stroke of luck. Niigata was targeted by the US army, but the bomb was not dropped due to unfavorable weather conditions. Niigata Station, linking Niigata to Tokyo, Osaka, Niitsu and other destinations, was built in 1950. The second half of the 20th century was not exactly auspicious for Niigata. A powerful earthquake struck the city in 1964, methyl mercury spilled into Shinano in 1965, poisoning hundreds of people. Today, Niigata is an ever-growing city, a modern city definitely worth visiting.

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Niigata City Ratings

  • Rating60%
    City Rank295
  • History & Culture: rated for 53%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 67%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 70%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 50%
  • Food: rated for 40%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 60%
  • Shopping: rated for 67%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 67%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 100%
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