Niigata (city)

Niigata (新潟市, Niigata-shi, [niːɡata]) is the capital and the most populous city of Niigata Prefecture located in the Chūbu region of Japan. It is the largest city on the west coast of Honshu, and the second largest city in Chūbu region after Nagoya. It faces the Sea of Japan and Sado Island. As of 1 July 2019, the city had an estimated population of 797,591, and a population density of 1,098 persons per km2. The total area is 726.45 square kilometres (280.48 sq mi). Greater Niigata, the Niigata Metropolitan Employment Area, has a GDP of US$43.3 billion as of 2010.[2][3]

Niigata City
NiigataCity Skylines from Toki Messe
Bandai Bridge
Old Niigata Customs Government Building Niigata
Niigata Prefectural Government Memorial Hall
Furumachi area
Bandai City
From top left: Niigata skylines from Toki Messe, Bandai Bridge, Old Niigata Customs Government Building Niigata, Minatopia, Niigata Prefectural Government Memorial Hall, Furumachi area, Bandai City
Flag of Niigata
Official seal of Niigata
Location of Niigata in Niigata Prefecture
Location of Niigata in Niigata Prefecture
Niigata is located in Japan
Coordinates: 37°54′58″N 139°2′11″E / 37.91611°N 139.03639°E / 37.91611; 139.03639Coordinates: 37°54′58″N 139°2′11″E / 37.91611°N 139.03639°E / 37.91611; 139.03639
RegionChūbu (Kōshin'etsu) (Hokuriku)
City StatusApril 1, 1889[citation needed]
 • MayorYaichi Nakahara (from November, 2018)
 • Designated city726.45 km2 (280.48 sq mi)
 (July 1, 2019)
 • Designated city797,591
 • Density1,100/km2 (2,800/sq mi)
 • Metro
[1] (2015)
1,060,013 (17th)
Time zoneUTC+9 (Japan Standard Time)
• TreeWillow
• FlowerTulip
• BirdSwan
Phone number025-243-4894
Address1-602-1 Gakkōchō-dōri, Chūō-ku, Niigata-shi, Niigata-ken 951-8550
Niigata (Chinese characters).svg
"Niigata" in kanji
Japanese name

With a long history as a port town, Niigata became a free port following the Meiji Restoration. Niigata's city government was established in 1889. Mergers with nearby municipalities in 2005 allowed the city's population to jump to 810,000. The annexation of the surrounding area has also given the city the greatest rice paddy field acreage in Japan. On April 1, 2007, it became the first government-designated city on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu.


The place name "Niigata" was first recorded in 1520 (Eisho 17).[4] Its name in kanji can be translated as "new", "lagoon", "city".

However, as there is no record about the origin of the name, this had led to many theories. First "Niigata" was a large lagoon at the mouth of the Shinano river. Second it was an inland bay at the river's entrance. Third it was the name of a village that stood on an island within the estuary. Fourth it referred to another settlement that relocated to the Furumachi district and that in turn gave its name to a nearby lagoon.[5]


Prehistoric and ancientEdit

People have inhabited the Niigata area since the Jōmon period, though much of the current land was still beneath the sea at the time. According to the Nihon Shoki, a fortress was built in the area in AD 647.

Feudal periodEdit

In the 16th century, a port called Niigata was established at the mouth of the Shinano River, while a port town with the name Nuttari developed at the mouth of the Agano River. The area prospered beneath the rule of Uesugi Kenshin during the Sengoku Period.

Early modern periodEdit

A system of canals was constructed throughout the downtown area of Niigata port in the 17th century. During this period, the courses of the Shinano and Agano rivers gradually changed until they poured into the Sea of Japan at the same location. As a result, Niigata prospered as a port town, serving as a port of call for Japanese trade ships traversing the Sea of Japan.

The Matsugasaki Canal was constructed in 1730 to drain the Agano River area, but in 1731, flooding destroyed the canal and caused it to become the main current of the Agano River. As a result, the volume of water flowing into the port of Niigata decreased, which in turn allowed land reclamation efforts and the development of new rice fields to proceed.

Modern periodEdit

In 1858, Niigata was designated as one of the five ports to be opened for international trade in the Japan–U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce. However, the shallow water level in the port delayed the actual opening to foreign ships until 1869. The port also served as a valuable base for fishermen who roamed as far north as the Kamchatka Peninsula to catch salmon and other fish.

In 1886, the first Bandai Bridge was built across the Shinano River to connect the settlements of Niigata on the west and Nuttari on the east. Niigata annexed Nuttari in 1914.

During World War II, Niigata's strategic location between the capital of Tokyo and the Sea of Japan made it a key point for the transfer of settlers and military personnel to the Asian continent, including Manchukuo.

Contemporary periodEdit

In 1945, near the end of the war, Niigata was one of four cities, together with Hiroshima, Kokura, and Nagasaki, picked as targets for the atomic bombs if Japan did not surrender. However, Niigata was not actually targeted in the first two missions. There were several theories about the reasons that Niigata was lowered in the priority, such as poor weather conditions, its distance from B-29 bases in the Mariana Islands, and other factors.[6]

On August 11, 1945, after the second atomic bombing in Nagasaki, the governor of Niigata Prefecture ordered the people to evacuate as concerns of an impending bombing hightened, and the city was completely deserted for days until the war ended without more atomic bombings.[7]

A devastating Typhoon Louise and fire in 1955 destroyed much of the downtown area, but eventually the city recovered. In 1958, construction of the relocated Niigata Station was completed, extending the downtown area from Bandai Bridge. The Niigata Thermal Power Station Unit 1 started operation in July 1963. At that time, it was Japan's first power plant capable of using a mixture of natural gas and heavy oil.

In 1964, the old canals that flowed throughout the old downtown area were filled in to make way for more roads.

On June 16, 1964, at 13:01 Japan Standard Time an earthquake of 7.5 Richter scale struck the city, killing 29 people and causing large-scale property damage, with 1,960 totally destroyed buildings, 6,640 partially destroyed buildings, and 15,298 severely inundated by liquefaction.

In 1965, the Agano River running through Niigata was polluted with methylmercury from the chemical plant of the Showa Electrical Company. Over 690 people exhibited symptoms of Minamata disease and the outbreak became known as Niigata Minamata disease.

In 1982, Shinkansen service on the Jōetsu Shinkansen line began between Niigata and Omiya, with service to Ueno added in 1985. The line was extended to Tokyo in 1991.

Big Swan Stadium in Niigata City hosted three games during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

The 2004 Chūetsu earthquake did not cause any significant damage in Niigata City itself, allowing the city to work as a relief base.

The size and the population of Niigata city increased over the four-year period between 2001 and 2005, due to a series of municipal mergers. On April 1, 2007, Niigata City became first city on the west coast of Honshu to become a government-designated city.

In July 2007, the Chūetsu offshore earthquake, measuring 6.9 on Richter scale, rocked Niigata Prefecture. Though the earthquake was felt in the city, there was little damage, which allowed Niigata City to provide aid to the devastated areas.

In May 2008, the city hosted the 2008 G8 Labor Ministers Meeting.

On March 12, 2011, several hours after the massive 9.0 Tohoku earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, Niigata and Nagano Prefectures experienced an estimated magnitude 6.6 earthquake.


Mergers of Niigata


Aerial photo of Niigata
View of Echigo Plain from Mount Kakuda [ja]

Niigata is situated on a fertile coastal plain on the Sea of Japan coast, facing Sado Island. The Shinano River and Agano River flow through the city.

Numerous wetlands, such as the Fukushimagata wetlands, can be found within the city limits. The Sakata lagoon is registered as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Niigata City's low elevation and abundant water have made flood control and land reclamation important issues for the area throughout its history.

The city is sometimes called the "City of Water" (水の都, Mizu-no-miyako) because of the two rivers that flow through it, its position next to the Japan Sea, its many wetlands, and the canals that used to run through the city. It is also sometimes referred to as the "City of Willows" (柳の都, Yanagi-no-miyako) or Ryuto (柳都) because of the willow trees that lined the old canals. In recent years, the city has been promoting itself as a "Designated City of Food and Flowers" (食と花の政令市, Shoku to hana no seireishi), highlighting its agricultural areas outside of the city center.


Niigata City features a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), but receives more yearly snowfall than cities such as Moscow, Montreal or Oslo. The climate in Niigata City is characterized by its high humidity and strong winds from the Sea of Japan. While many other parts of Niigata Prefecture tend to have heavy snow, Niigata City itself usually receives less due to its low-lying elevation and the shielding effect of Sado Island.

However, Niigata City does receive much precipitation, mostly in the form of rainfall. On average, Niigata City has 269 days of precipitation each year, about 170 days of which see rain or snowfall measuring over 1 mm.[8] The rainy season in July brings large amounts of rain, while the winter months, especially November and December, also have much precipitation.[9]

In summer, the south wind makes the weather rather hot.[citation needed] Typhoons usually bring strong foehn winds to this area, generally causing somewhat higher temperatures than in other parts of Japan.[citation needed] The weather on the west coast of Honshu tends to be better during the summer months than on the Pacific coast.[citation needed]

Climate data for Niigata (1991−2020 normals, extremes 1881−present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.3
Average high °C (°F) 5.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.5
Average low °C (°F) 0.1
Record low °C (°F) −11.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 180.9
Average snowfall cm (inches) 63
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.5 mm) 23.3 19.0 17.4 13.3 11.3 10.6 13.6 10.9 13.5 15.2 19.2 24.1 191.4
Average relative humidity (%) 72 74 68 66 69 74 79 75 73 72 74 74 72
Mean monthly sunshine hours 56.4 74.3 136.8 177.7 202.8 179.2 162.1 205.2 156.2 138.2 91.5 62.9 1,639.6
Source: Japan Meteorological Agency[10]


View of Chuo Ward

Niigata has a system of wards (ku) since April 1, 2007:[11] Each ward has its own "image color".

Wards of Niigata
Place Name Map of Niigata
Rōmaji Kanji Color
1 Akiha Ward 秋葉区 Floral green
2 Chuo Ward (administrative center) 中央区 Waterfront blue
3 Higashi Ward 東区 Aqua blue
4 Kita Ward 北区 Nature green
5 Konan Ward 江南区 Spring green
6 Minami Ward 南区 Breeze blue
7 Nishi Ward 西区 Sunset orange
8 Nishikan Ward 西蒲区 Harvest yellow

Adjoining communitiesEdit

From the north, following Niigata's border clockwise:

  • In addition Sado Island is connected by sea and air routes.


The central city area of Niigata City, viewed from the upper sidewalk of the Ryuto Ohashi Bridge. The right side is Furumachi. The left side is Bandai .


Willow-lined streets of Niigata


Niigata Airport is located about 6 km north of central Niigata. It handles some international destinations as well as many domestic ones. As of October 2016, the domestic destinations available are Osaka (10 times a day), Sapporo (five or six times a day), Fukuoka (three times a day), Okinawa (once or twice a day), Nagoya (three times a day), Narita (once a day) and Sado Island (three times a day).

Niigata Airport's international destinations are Harbin (twice a week), Seoul (five times a week), Shanghai (twice a week) and Vladivostok.[12]


The largest station in Niigata City is Niigata Station. It is centrally located in the Bandai area, one of the two main shopping districts in downtown Niigata. Approximately 37,000 passengers use the station daily. The Jōetsu Shinkansen, which terminates at Niigata Station, provides daily service to Tokyo. The Shin'etsu Main Line, Hakushin Line, Echigo Line, Uetsu Main Line, and Ban'etsu West Line also terminate at Niigata Station. These lines serve Myoko, Itoigawa, Akita, Sakata, and Aizuwakamatsu.

Niigata Kotsu Dentetsu Line and Kambara Dentetsu trains used to run through the city until the late 1990s; however, they no longer exist.

Transit busEdit

BRT "Bandai-bashi Line" runs through business/shopping districts in the central Niigata (Niigata Station—Bandai BridgeFurumachi—City hall—Hakusan Station—Aoyama).

Sea portEdit

Niigata was formerly the terminus of the Mangyongbong-92 ferry, one of the direct connections between Japan and North Korea.


Colleges and universitiesEdit

Local attractionsEdit


Niigata geigi
Aerial video of Kurosaki Festival Fireworks

A lesser known fact is that Niigata has its own geisha culture since over 200 years dating back to the Edo period. This was due to the strategic location to the north and the economic importance of the city. Locally they are called geigi and the tradition continues on. Most ochaya are located in the Furumachi neighbourhoood with well-known places such as the Nabechaya.[14]




Notable people from NiigataEdit

Artists and writersEdit

Actors and voice actorsEdit



List of mayors of Niigata City (1889 to present)Edit

Sister citiesEdit

Niigata maintains sister city ties with six cities:

  •   Birobidzhan, Russia (since August 1992, once a sister city of Toyosaka, Niigata assumed the sister city honors in 2005)
  •   Galveston, United States (since January 1965)
  •   Harbin, China (since December 1979)
  •   Khabarovsk, Russia (since April 1965)
  •   Nantes, France (2009, shifted from friendship city since 1999)
  •   Vladivostok, Russia (since February 1991)

In addition, special exchange agreements have been set up with the following:[citation needed]


  1. ^ "UEA Code Tables". Center for Spatial Information Science, University of Tokyo. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  2. ^ Yoshitsugu Kanemoto. "Metropolitan Employment Area (MEA) Data". Center for Spatial Information Science, The University of Tokyo. Archived from the original on 2018-06-15. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  3. ^ Conversion rates - Exchange rates - OECD Data
  4. ^ 知っておきたい新潟県の歴史編集委員会 (2010). 知っておきたい新潟県の歴史. 新潟日報事業社. ISBN 978-4861323720.
  5. ^ 角川日本地名大辞典 編纂委員会 (1989). 角川日本地名大辞典 15 新潟県. (株)角川書店. ISBN 4-04-001150-3.
  6. ^ Neglected Niigata | Restricted Data
  7. ^ 新潟がゴーストタウンになった日。知事が命じた「原爆疎開」 | ハフポスト
  8. ^ 平年値(年・月ごとの値)
  9. ^ Niigata City 2007 Statistical Data, published 2007
  10. ^ 気象庁 / 平年値(年・月ごとの値). Japan Meteorological Agency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  11. ^ Map Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Flight Schedule - NIIGATA AIRPORT
  13. ^ "Nature Aquarium Gallery official website". Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  14. ^ "The Niigata Geigi: Japan's 'other' geishas".
  15. ^ "Yutakayama Rikishi Information". Sumo Reference. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  16. ^ "North Korea abductee: Japan parents meet grand-daughter - BBC News". BBC News. 17 March 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-08.

External linksEdit

"Niigata" . New International Encyclopedia. 1905.