The Niigata City Loop Bus, a great way to tour!
The city of Niigata is dotted with numerous tourist attractions located right within its radius.
Since this was my first trip, I decided on the Niigata City Loop Bus to make my round of places I wanted to see.
A one-day pass for adults is 500 yen. For children, it’s 250 yen. The pass is also good for discounts when shown at tourist spots and restaurants (for the day of the ride only).
A one-day pass for the Niigata City Loop Bus.
The Niigata Manga and Animation Museum
With Niigata being a town of manga and anime, what better place is there to immerse yourself in its culture than at this museum? Unfortunately, it was closed on the day I visited, being in the process of changing exhibits. However, it regularly features Niigata-related cartoonists and anime creators, with areas set aside for visitors to play with popular characters and experience voice acting for themselves. The Niigata Manga and Animation Museum was listed in the 2018 version of “Japan’s 88 Anime Pilgrimage Sites.”
A famous power spot for love and marriage.
Hakusan-jinja, located in the center of the city, is said to have a history of almost 1,000 years.
The honden or main sanctuary.
The water basin to purify oneself before praying.
Offering a prayer to the gods
The shrine sells an astonishing array of talismans and or good luck charms, including ones featuring Hello Kitty. Rilakkuma bear characters, and more.
I decided to “fish” for a special issue, one that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Niigata port.
I hooked a “love” charm”!
Here’s my carp-shaped love charm, a pun on the words for love and carp, both pronounced, “koi.”
Niigata City Aquarium Marine Pier Japan Sea
I could hardly wait for my next stop, the Niigata City Aquarium Marine Pier Japan Sea.
Here was my chance to see dolphins, sea lions, spotted seals, and sea otters up close!
The show at the dolphin stadium gets rave reviews.
Watching the dolphins execute their high jumps had me clapping and cheering with the kids!
An adorable sea otter crunching on some ice!
Walking through the Marine Tunnel is truly an underwater experience.
Fish and other aquatic creatures of the nearby Sea of Japan swim in this huge tank. The staff helpfully explains their behavior and feeding habits.
Jellyfish, almost mystical in their iridescent beauty.
The numerous displays of marine life are well-spaced in the spacious site to allow for leisurely viewing.
Take time out for the restaurant’s unique aqua-themed drinks and desserts.
The seal parfait (left) and the marine blue float (right) are samples of their kid-friendly selections.
The seal parfait was too cute to eat, or so I thought, but I ate it anyway. The marine blue float is topped with ice cream shaped like a porpoise or other marine animals.
Who can resist a cuddly toy from the gift shop?
The former Saito Family summer villa
My next destination was the former summer residence of the Saito family, now designated a national scenic spot.
The formal entrance.
This home, built in 1918 by a wealthy Niigata merchant, is an exquisite example of modern Japanese architecture.
The strolling garden with its streams and waterfalls captures the beauty of the four seasons.
I lingered over my matcha tea and Japanese confectionary while viewing the garden.
A magnificent view from the second floor.
The white-walled buildings outside the villa, reminiscent of an Edo period townscape.
Niigata Food and Dining
Niigata is also considered the food capital of the Japan Sea region. Fresh fish, local meat and vegetables, and even sake are available at the Pier Bandai, where if hunger strikes, you can grill and eat your purchases on the spot.
The Bandai Fresh Fish Center
This gigantic red snow crab had my mouth watering!
I slurped raw oysters fresh from the waters of Niigata!
And grilled my own sazae turban shells!
Not to mention, I stocked up on souvenir gifts to share the tastes of Niigata.
The “What’s NIIGATA” monument on the banks of the Shinano River
Now for my last stop, the Shinano River.
A pleasant breeze accompanied me as I walked the riverside.
Behind me spanned the 6-arched Bandai Bridge, a symbol of this beautiful city.
Up ahead stood an enormous monument!
Snap a twosome with a friend while standing inside each of the booth-shaped letter “I”s under the hearts.
This cat drawing is the work of famed manga artist Makoto Kobayashi, a native of Niigata. Mr. Kobayashi is known for his “What’s Michael” manga series about an engaging orange cat.
This ends my short trip to the city of Niigata. I’ve still got a long list of places to visit, so I’ll be back to take advantage of another one-day pass.
How to get the most out of your Loop Bus trip
Tourist spots are typically clustered around a single bus stop, so it’s a good idea to take them in by strolling the area. But remember to keep an eye on the bus schedule. Click below for more details on the Niigata City Loop Bus:
*The information herein is as of July 2019.