Joetsu, located in the middle part of Niigata, is not a major tourist destination, but it is easy to access from Nagano Prefecture. It is just a one and a half hour drive from Nagano Station. It has glorious scenery and you can enjoy both hiking and sea activities. Joetsu is famous for skiing but it’s also a very popular area for fishing. We rented a car at Nagano Station and drove to Niigata by Joshinetsu Expressway. Some parts of the Expressway were two lanes both ways, so it caused a heavy traffic jam. Early morning would be the best time to drive.
Fishing at Naoetsu Harbor
We went to Naoetsu Harbor for fishing in May. It took 40 mins by car from Joetsu Myoko Station. The best season for fishing is from May to October. It is hard to find parking lots during weekends and Summer vacation season, so early morning is better to go.
We went to Ebisuya fishing tackle shop near Naoetsu Harbor around 8:00 and bought two fishing rods and baits. The shop owner was so supportive to advise us where to go and which bait and type would be the best to use at Naoetsu Port.
Hiking at Kanaya Mountain
After fishing at Naoetsu Harbor, we visited the Kanaya Mountain area. Kanaya Mountain is known as the original place for skiing in Japan. Mr. Theodor Edler von Lerch came from Germany and taught Japanese how to ski. A very small museum near a parking area exhibited pictures of old-style skiing and Mr. Edler’s personal belongings.
Kanaya Mountain is also popular for summer bobsledding. The length is 450 meters from the top of Kanaya Mountain to the end. My kids could not stop riding and they took it more than three times. The high speed of bobsled and refreshing air made them so excited. There were two choices to get to top of the Kanaya Mountain, taking a lift or walking along a path covered with green. We tried both ways, by taking a lift and walking.
After 30 mins walking, we reached to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy this view.
My boys tried to hunt for tadpoles for 2 hours. Yes, it’s a good time to do so on a sunny day.
Super Bobsled at Kanaya Mountain opens from the end of April to October from 9:30 to 17:00. It is closed on Monday except holidays. There are over 300 parking lots.
Takada Castle, Japanese traditional castle
We visited the Ruins of Takada Castle from Kanaya Mountain to see Mieyagura, a three-story turret, reconstructed in 1993. It took 15 mins by car from Kanaya Mountain. The founders of Takada Castle were relatives of Ieyasu Tokugawa, who started the Edo era in Japan. There are no stone walls or tower castle due to the urgent request to build a castle. The outer moat was a huge leveraging natural river. Climbing the scaffold of Mieyagura, you will see some mountains in the distance. We could walk on some part of the castle ruins along with the outer moat.
In the same area, is the old house of Kobayashi Kodo, a Japanese-style painter. It has a gorgeous Japanese garden which is maintained very well. The contrast of blue sky and green garden is perfect to enjoy Japanese early summer. You can see the inside of the house and his painting room with a huge window for lighting. I imagined the artist enjoyed the changing of the light and seasonal greens. The admission fee of Mieyagura is 300 yen per person and it opens from 9:00 to 17:00. A multi-Site ticket of Takada Castle’s Mieyagura and Kodo Kobayashi’s house is available.
We missed some cultural things after fishing and hiking in Niigata, so the Ruins of Takada Castle area was the best place for us to learn the history of Joetsu.
How to get there: From Tokyo, take Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train to Joetsu Myoko Station and the travel time is approximately two hours. Rent-a-car is the easiest way to see around.