Spring Break: Niigata

For the first leg of my spring break trip using a Seishun 18 ticket, I had to be in Shibuya Station at 5:44 a.m. I took the JR Yamanote Line bound for Tokyo Station and from there transferred to the Takasaki Line. Travel time from Tokyo to Takasaki is 116 minutes, so I took advantage of this period to doze off.

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Tokyo Station Takasaki Line bound for Takasaki

img_2220There is a 15-minute stop at Echigo-Yuzawa Station where one can alight and take some pictures. This is also a Shinkansen stop and from here one can go to the popular ski resort Gala Yuzawa. I was there just a few days ago for some sledding fun in the snow.

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A solo traveler waiting for the next train
From Takasaki, I transferred to the Joetsu Line towards Minakami. It is a very small station wherein the transfer means just going up the stairs in between the platforms. img_6943img_6944Minakami Station is the first stop to more interesting sights. After this station, it is a 119-minute ride to Nagaoka. The long trip would have allowed me more sleep, but I was more interested in looking at snow-capped mountains and valleys covered in white in between. I had 50 minutes of wait time in Nagaoka, so it was there that I had a quick lunch. I was also able to go see some shops around the station in that span of time. Then onwards to Niigata, my first stop for the day.

 This is what the almost empty train looks like inside. What could be more comfortable than this? The toilet even looks like it’s from a hotel!

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Artwork outside Nagaoka Station

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More artwork at Nagaoka Station
 After the 50-minute lunch at Nagaoka and another transfer to the Shinetsu Line, we arrived at Niigata Station. After checking-in, I went back to the station and looked for options on how to go around the city.

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The torii gate – entrance to Hakusan Shrine and Park

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Early blooming sakura

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Reflections at the lily pond
 Hakusan Park is the first park in Japan. The entrance to the park is a bright red torii gate. Early blooming sakura can be found right after the park’s entrance. To the right is Hakusan Shrine with its wooden gate and Hello Kitty prayer boards.

 Other interesting sights in the park include a lily pond and the monument of Masakata Kasumoto, a samurai, who modernized Niigata city. A marker states that he was born in Nagasaki Prefecture, and became Niigata’s Prefectural Governor in 1872 and from then on devoted his time to modernizing the city. He established Hakusan Park as Japan’s first park.

Beyond the park are stairs that led me to discover an athletic stadium that can be reached by a connecting pedestrian bridge. Getting back to the city center proved to be difficult because of the confusing bus schedule. Apparently, I paid for the loop bus whose schedule ended at 5 p.m. Since it was beyond that time, I took the regular bus to the station and ended up spending more than I was supposed to that day for bus fare.

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The stairs that led me to somewhere

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Athletic field across the street
 

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The back of Niigata Prefectural Civic Center
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