Niigata, Japan

Located along the rugged coast of the Sea of Japan, Niigata is known for its natural splendors and high-quality sake. The port acts as a gateway to serene Sado Island, once a place to send political exiles. The island is now a vacation destination and home of the last wild Japanese Crested Ibis (Toki), a large, delicate bird with rosy plumage. Toki Forest Park offers a chance to learn more about conservation efforts and to view the birds. If you don’t want to make the trip to Sado, there’s plenty to do near the Niigata cruise port. Art and history enthusiasts can look at paintings, sculptures, calligraphy and more at the Northern Culture Museum. Or step back in time at the Minatopia Niigata City History Museum, a cluster of late 19th-century Western-style buildings along the serene Shinano riverbank. Pristine landscapes surround Niigata. Unwind in open-air thermal hot springs and refresh with a stroll through a forest, known as shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. See the breathtaking rice fields of the Tokamachi area, especially resplendent after rainfall. Or head to the Kiyotsu Gorge, a canyon with a tunnel that winds along the river.

Top 3: Things to Do in Niigata, Japan

1 Sado Island Go to Sado Island to take a traditional washtub boat ride or catch a taiko drum performance.
2 Sake Tasting Sip the renowned local sake with sake brewery tours and tastings.
3 Hoshitoge Rice Terrace View remarkable rice fields, plus learn the history of rice terraces.