Niigata Prefecture

Niigata Prefecture
Niigata Prefecture
Japanese transcription(s)
 – Japanese 新潟県
 – Rōmaji Niigata-ken

Symbol of Niigata Prefecture
Country Japan
Region Chūbu, Hokuriku
Island Honshū
Capital Niigata (city)
 – Governor Hirohiko Izumida
 – Total 12,582.47 km2 (4,858.1 sq mi)
Area rank 5th
Population (February 1, 2011)
 – Total 2,371,574
 – Rank 14th
 – Density 188.48/km2 (488.2/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code JP-15
Districts 9
Municipalities 30
Flower Tulip (Tulipa gesneriana)
Tree Camellia (Camellia japonica)
Bird Crested Ibis (Nipponia nippon)

Niigata Prefecture (新潟県 Niigata-ken?) is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan.[1] The capital is the city of Niigata.[2] The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".



Until after the Meiji Restoration, the area that is now Niigata Prefecture was divided into Echigo Province and Sado Province.[3] During the Sengoku period, the Nagao clan, who were at times vassals to the Uesugi, ruled a fief in the western part of modern Niigata from Kasugayama Castle. The most notable member of the Nagao clan was Nagao Kagetora, was later and better known as Uesugi Kenshin. He unified the leaders of Echigo Province and became its sole ruler. By taking the surname Uesugi, he also became the head of the Uesugi clan and effectively brought their realm under his control.

The city of Niigata is now the largest Japanese city facing the Sea of Japan. It was the first Japanese port on the Sea of Japan to be opened to foreign trade following the opening of Japan by Matthew Perry. It has since played an important role in trade with Russia and Korea. A freighter from North Korea visits Niigata once a month, in one of the few forms of direct contact between Japan and that country.

The Etsuzankai organization, led by the politician Kakuei Tanaka, was highly influential in bringing infrastructure improvements to Niigata Prefecture in the 1960s and 1970s. These included the Jōetsu Shinkansen high-speed rail line and the Kanetsu Expressway to Tokyo.

On October 23, 2004, the Chūetsu earthquake struck Niigata Prefecture and was measured at Shindo 6+ at Ojiya.

On January 9, 2006, a heavy winter storm struck the prefecture and its neighbors. At least 71 people died and more than 1,000 were injured. Also in 2006, a massive tsunami and earthquake damaged homes and caused casualties in the maritime areas of Niigata Prefecture, especially near Sado Island.

On July 16, 2007, another earthquake hit the area.

Niigata Prefecture hosts the Fuji Rock Festival, an annual event held at the Naeba ski resort. The three-day event, organized by Smash Japan, features more than 200 Japanese and international musicians. It is one of the largest outdoor music events in Japan, with more than 100,000 people attending in 2005.


Map of Niigata Prefecture
Ten-Ken cliff of Oya-Shirazu, Niigata

Niigata Prefecture stretches about 240 km along the Sea of Japan, from the southwest to the northeast, with a coastal plain between the mountains and the sea. It also includes Sado Island.

Because of the way it is shaped, Niigata Prefecture is often called "small Honshū." It could be placed in either the Hokuriku or the Kōshin'etsu, both of which are considered parts of the Chūbu region.

The prefecture is generally divided into four geographical areas: Jōetsu in the south, Chūetsu in the center, Kaetsu in the north, and Sado Island. The mouth of the Shinano River, the longest river in Japan, is located in Niigata Prefecture.

Reconstruction of a 19th century peasant farmer's house and rice paddy at the Northern Culture Museum, Niigata.


There are 20 cities in Niigata Prefecture:


Towns and villages

The towns and villages in each district are:




Agriculture, forestry and fishing

The major industry in Niigata Prefecture is agriculture. Rice is the principal product, and among the prefectures of Japan Niigata is second only to Hokkaidō in rice output. The area around Uonuma is known for producing the Koshihikari variety, widely considered to be the highest-quality rice produced in Japan.

Rice-related industries are also very important to the prefectural economy. Niigata Prefecture is known throughout Japan for its high-quality sake, senbei, mochi, and arare. In sake production, the prefecture comes third after Gunma and Kyoto prefectures.

The prefecture was also the place of origin of the ornamental carp known as koi.

Niigata Prefecture produces the highest volume of azaleas and cut lilies in Japan, and is increasing production of cut flowers and flower bulbs. Along with Toyama Prefecture, it produces the highest volume of tulips in the country.

Mining and manufacturing

Crude oil is produced in Niigata Prefecture, although Japan relies heavily on petroleum imported from other countries. Kerosene heaters are also produced for use in the cold Niigata winters.

Kinzan, on Sado Island, was an active gold mine until it was closed in 1989.

Sanjō and Tsubame produce 9 percent of all the silverware made in Japan. The two cities are second after Osaka in the production of scissors, kitchen knives, and wrenches.

Niigata Prefecture may have been the first area in Japan to produce knitted textiles, although the earliest products may have been imported from China.

The nuclear power plant with the highest energy output in the world is located in the tiny village of Kariwa.


In 1885, Niigata was the most populous prefecture in Japan, beating even Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture in population[citation needed]. In the Census of 2003, Niigata ranked as the 14th most populous.

As in the rest of Japan, Niigata's population shows signs of aging, particularly in the rural areas.



Niigata is known for the following regional specialities:

  • Uonuma Koshihikari rice
  • Shoyu (soy sauce) and Yofu (western-style) katsudon
  • Shoyu sekihan
  • Noppe stew
  • Wappa-meshi (seafood and rice steamed in a bamboo basket)
  • Sasa-dango (mochi balls filled with red bean paste, seasoned with mugwort and wrapped in bamboo leaves)
  • Poppo-yaki (steamed bread flavored with brown sugar)
  • Hegi-soba (soba from the Uonuma and Ojiya areas, which uses a special kind of seaweed)
  • "Tsubame-Sanjō ramen" (ramen made using thick udon-style noodles)
  • Tochio aburage (aburaage is called "aburage" in Tochio)
  • Kirazu (dishes using okara)
  • Kakinomoto (edible chrysanthemums)
  • Kanzuri (a special seasoning from Myōkō made by leaving chili peppers exposed on snow, then adding flour, salt and yuzu)
  • Yasuda yogurt

Niigata in popular culture

  • Snow Country ( 1947): a novel by Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata set in Yuzawa
  • "Niigata Snow": a track on the LP Aida, released by Derek Bailey in 1980
  • Kura: a film and TV series (1995) based on the 1993 book by Tomiko Miyao, an award winning period piece about a Niigata family and its sake brewery
  • Blue (1996): a manga about high school girls, set in Niigata City, adapted as a film in 2001
  • Whiteout: an action film based on a novel published in 1995
  • My Mother is a Tractor: A Life in Rural Japan (2006), a memoir by Nicholas Klar, written when he was based in Itoigawa in Niigata Prefecture

Tourism and sports

Much of the tourism in Niigata centers around skiing and going to onsen, especially in the alpine areas of Myōkō and Yuzawa.

Sado Island off the west coast of Niigata is accessible via ferry (taking one to two and a half hours) from Naoetsu or Niigata City.

Professional sports clubs include Albirex Niigata, a J-League Division 1 Soccer Club, and Niigata Albirex BB, a BJ (Basketball Japan) League team.


  • Murakami Taisai – July 6-7
  • Iwafune Taisai – October 18-19, in Murakami
  • Niigata Festival – August
  • Niigata General Dancing Event -September 21-25
  • Shirone Kite Festival – June
  • Sanjo Kite Festival – June
  • Nagaoka Festival (with fireworks) – August
  • Tokamachi Winter Festival – February[citation needed]
  • Niigata Tanrei Sake-no-Jin - March







  • Kanetsu Expressway
  • Joshinetsu Expressway
  • Hokuriku Expressway
  • Banetsu Expressway
  • Nihonkai Expressway

National Highway

  • Route 7 (Niigata-Shibata-Murakami-Sakata-Akita-Noshiro-Hirosaki-Aomori)
  • Route 8 (Niigata-Nagaoka-Kashiwazaki-Joetsu-Toyama-Kanazawa-Fukui-Tsuruga-Hikone-Kusatsu, Shiga)
  • Route 17 (Nagaoka-Ojiya-Shibukawa-Takasaki-Kumagaya-Saitama-Nihonbashi of Tokyo)
  • Route 18 (Joetsu-Myoko-Nagano-Komoro-Karuizawa-Takasaki)
  • Route 49 (Niigata-Aizuwakamatsu-Koriyama-Iwaki)
  • Route 113
  • Route 116
  • Route 117
  • Route 148
  • Route 252
  • Route 253
  • Route 289
  • Route 290
  • Route 291
  • Route 292
  • Route 345
  • Route 350 (Sado Island)
  • Route 351
  • Route 352
  • Route 353
  • Route 402
  • Route 403
  • Route 404
  • Route 405
  • Route 459
  • Route 460


  • Niigata Port – Ferry route to Sado Island, Tsuruga, Akita, Otaru and Tomakomai, with International Container hub port
  • Ryotsu Port – Ferry route to Niigata
  • Ogi Port
  • Naoetsu Port


Prefectural symbols

Prefectural website

Notable individuals

Politics and military

Arts and culture



  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Niigata-ken" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 711 at Google Books
  2. ^ Nussbaum, "Niigata" at p. 711 at Google Books
  3. ^ Nussbaum, "Provinces and prefectures" at p. 780 at Google Books


External links

Coordinates: 37°37′N 138°52′E / 37.617°N 138.867°E / 37.617; 138.867

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