Sapporo ➡ Niigata

I had a rather lovely time with my wife & son when we travelled to Niigata for a few days for a family wedding a couple weekends ago. I thought I’d try something different this time around for summarizing our trip—I’d recap in GIFs! Mostly because I think GIFs are just way more interesting than plain old pictures and captions, but also somewhat admittedly because I’m feeling just a tad bit lazy to write tonight (so I’ll just go ahead and let the GIFs do most of the talking) 😝

Pre-boarding snack time. Takeoff in 10!

Keimei was a real trooper on the plane!

Luckily our flight was only an hour and a half. But even with that, there were still a couple of challenging trials and tribulations with our little one. Lessons learned from this inflight experience with a feisty one-and-a-half-year-old toddler + economy seating: 1) always have animal crackers on hand, 2) always have fresh episodes of Sesame Street and Shimajiro on the iPad, 3) always have animal crackers on hand.

After touching down in Niigata, we picked up our rental car at the airport, dropped our luggage off at the hotel, and finally met up with some of Kosato’s family members in the evening for dinner.

We had a true Niigata style meal—washoku at its finest. I was of course most excited to try some sake already, and I was most definitely not disappointed.

It was a great reunion for everyone and we all had a fantastic meal! I was so full after this dinner, when we got back our hotel room, I gave in to my food coma and KO-ed.

taste testing some really fine sake

The next day was actually the wedding, but most of the pictures for that was taken on my wife’s phone and on our Olympus Pen. I did post a few pics of us in our wedding attire a couple posts back, do check that out 🙂

The day after, we were finally free to explore a bit, so we decided to take Keimei to Marinepia Nihonkai Niigata City Aquarium. To get there from the hotel was only a ten minute drive and along the way we were treated to a stunning view of the ocean along the coast.

blue ocean & blue sky

Keimei loves aquariums! We’ve taken him to at least three already: Otaru, Chitose, Noboribetsu. Seeing him excited when he sees the fish is such a joy. One of these days, we really want to take him to the famous Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa.

so excited!

After a few hours of exploring, we grabbed lunch on the second floor. I ordered the Niigata specialty: Tare-katsu Donburi.

wait for it…

Refueled and ready to trek on, we finished up at the aquarium and made our way back home. But before that, in an area just a walk away from the aquarium, we saw there was a small beach, and so we decided to let Keimei play for a bit.

By far, the most memorable part of the trip was this moment. Letting Keimei feel the sand and waves of the ocean at his feet and seeing his reaction. It was his first time I think since he started walking to have visited a beach. I’m glad we went!

enjoying the water

Back at the hotel, we freshened up and took it easy for the rest of the day.

view from the 8th floor

You can see the Shinano River from our hotel window.

The Shinano River: Japan’s longest and widest river

Our final day in Niigata was spent mostly souvenir shopping. But we also had another very specific mission in mind and that was to visit 利き酒番所 (Kikizake Bansho) at Niigata Station. Sake Heaven.

Before actually getting to the spot, there was a sake festival being held right outside the station. What better way to pre-game?! It must have been destiny.

Keimei even got his drink on with some tasty amazake! (don’t worry, it was non-alcohol amazake)

“(oh what? what is this sweet sweet nectar i’m drinking???)”

And to tempt me even further, there was a craft beer bar right next to the sake festival! What in the world… (I’m there!)

Niigata Craft Beer

Finally, we reached the main course: Kikizake Bansho 93. Let’s do this!

500yen will get you five tokens, which will get you five cups of sake. There are of course options to buy more than five tokens and drink to your heart’s content if that is what you so desire.

sake vending machines!

So many choices…

it’s so beautiful

I got me some Niigata sake on the way out from their souvenir shop, which is located right out the door from here. It was such a blissful experience. I need to go again.

Anyways, that pretty much sums up our trip. Also, be sure to pick up some poppo-yaki before leaving Niigata. It’s a tasty local favorite that can’t be passed up, especially when you can get 10 for 300yen!

Poppo-yaki is Keimei-approved