Set between the Higashiyama mountains and the Sea of Japan, Nagaoka is a laid-back city that flourished under the Makino Clan during the Edo Period. It’s a pleasant base for exploring the mountainous landscapes and islands of Niigata Prefecture, with excellent skiing options in the winter.
Things to do in Nagaoka
The Niigata Prefectural Museum of History is a good first port of call to learn more about Nagaoka’s heritage. Then make a stop at the Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, with a collection that highlights the artistic culture of the region.
Nagaoka makes a good base for exploring the picturesque village of Yahiko, which lies en route to Niigata City. The Shinto shrine of Yahiko Jinja nestles at the base of Mount Yahiko, with its classic Japanese wooden architecture and red torii gates set within the dense forests of this sacred mountain.
From the shrine, an aerial lift known as the Yahikoyama Ropeway takes visitors to the top of the mountain and its rotating Panorama Tower. On a clear day, there are incredible views across the Echigo Plains all the way to Sado Island.
Sado Island can easily be visited on a day trip from Nagaoka, with ferries departing regularly from Niigata Port. Tour Sado’s former gold mine where animatronic figures illustrate the harsh life of a miner and drive along the rugged Sotokaifu Coast to beautiful Senkaku Bay. Alternatively, you can head up along the slopes of Mount Kinpoku to soak up the views across the island.
Getting around Nagaoka
Nagaoka is connected to Tokyo along the Joetsu Shinkansen line, with fast trains taking around 90 minutes. There are regular flights to destinations across Japan, Korea and China from the Niigata Airport that lies one hour to the north, while public buses access most of Nagaoka’s sights and attractions.