Watch the simple beauty of a Japanese tea ceremony unfold at the Northern Culture Museum, 25 minutes by bus from JR Niigata rail station. A monument engraved with a poem by famous calligrapher Yaichi Aizu sits in the 19th-century residence's leafy garden.
The newly opened Pia Bandai market buzzes with the sound of locals chattering, and chicken and fish sizzling over charcoal grills. Western cake-baking is given a Japanese twist while Niigata's finest sushi, bread, wine and flowers are showcased.
Time your stay at ANA Crowne Plaza Niigata for August's colourful Niigata Festival. The streets fill with processions of traditional dancers performing to the beat of massive Taiko drums. Celebrations are rounded off with fireworks over the Shinano River.
Find a quiet spot at Sekiyahama beach for one of the Land of the Rising Sun's best sunsets. This family-friendly stretch of golden sand looks out over the Sea of Japan and is lined with restaurants, 20 minutes by bus from JR Niigata rail station.
Visiting Yahiko Shrine, 1 hour's drive from ANA Crowne Plaza Niigata. Set at the end of a picturesque walkway, the shrine is unexpectedly home to Japan's longest sword, offered here in 1415. The sword is 2.2 metres long and retains is original lustre.