The new JR EAST PASS: Taking you away from Tokyo to experience the nature and history of the Nagano-Niigata area!

Last update :
Written by Editorial department

Right now is the perfect time of year to head out of Tokyo and take in the exquisite natural landscapes of Nagano and Niigata. The areas are known as popular summer getaway spots due to their cooler climates, but they are also home to countless outstanding restaurants and experience-based facilities.

The new JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area), which went on sale on April 1, 2016, offers users the chance to travel between Tokyo and the two areas on a budget. (Further details can be found at the end of this article.) The pass entitles users to unlimited travel within the designated areas during the period of use, including the Shinkansen. It’s perfect for the traveler with numerous destinations in mind!

▼Must-see spots in Niigata

Niigata rice is known to be of the highest quality. We suggest you try it for yourself, and what better way than in the form of sushi! Marui's special 10-piece selection plate, which features a variety of local fish, uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe), toro (fatty tuna), and more, is our top pick. It may seem a bit pricy, at 3,240 yen, but we believe it is worth every yen.

Address:8-1411 Higashiboridori, Chuo-ku, Niigata City, Niigata
Business Hours:11:30-14:00, 17:00-22:30
Closed:Open every day

If, however, you're looking for more than dining experiences, we urge you to visit the Niigata Senbei Okoku, a senbei, or rice cracker, theme park. Here you will be given the chance to make your own senbei—and eat it, too—as well as purchase souvenirs that aren't available anywhere else.

【Niigata Senbei Okoku】
Address:2661 Niizaki, Kita-ku, Niigata City, Niigata
Business Hours:9:30-17:00
Closed:Open every day ※May be closed temporarily at certain times

And for those who would like to experience the history and culture of the area, the Northern Culture Museum is the place for you! Once home to wealthy Echigo (current Niigata) landowners during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the building took 8 years to complete. Its breathtaking garden, which changes with the seasons, can be enjoyed year-round. So step back in time and take in the history that surrounds, and is contained within, this exquisite old building.

【Northern Culture Museum】
Address:2-15-25 Somi, Konan-ku, Niigata City, Niigata
Business Hours:April-Nov. 9:00-17:00, Dec.-March 9:00-16:30
Closed:Open every day

▼Must-see spots in Nagano

Nagano is famous for its Shinshu soba. High-quality dried soba made with over 40% Nagano-produced buckwheat. If you want to try the best of the best, why not head to Uzuraya? Their fragrant noodles are made with over 50% buckwheat.

Address:3229 Togakushi, Nagano City, Nagano
Business Hours:10:30-16:00 ※Open until sold out

Looking to bring something special home with you? Why not try your hand at glassmaking at the Azumino Art Hills Museum! This glass art museum offers workshops on glassblowing, sandblasting, and more.

【Azumino Art Hills Museum】
Address:8161-1 Hotaka Ariake, Azumino City, Nagano
Business Hours:April-Oct. 9:00-18:00, Nov.-March Inquire for details
Closed:April-Oct. Open every day, Dec.-Feb. Closed Tuesdays

And, last but not least, you won’t want to miss a visit to Zenkoji Temple. Founded in the 7th century, it is one of the largest and most important Buddhist temples in all of eastern Japan, seeing around 6 million tourists a year. There is plenty to see here!

【Zenkoji Temple】
Address:491-i Nagano-Motoyoshicho, Nagano City, Nagano
Business Hours:5:30-16:30
Closed:Open every day

In March 2015, access to Nagano via the Hokuriku Shinkansen line was made possible. In addition, the economical Hokuriku Arch Pass was recently introduced. The pass offers users unlimited travel from Tokyo and Osaka to the Hokuriku area. It's up to you to decide which pass best suits your travel plans! Enjoy!

Further details for the economical JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) can be found below. With this handy pass, you can travel to all the aforementioned spots from Tokyo with ease and affordability.

Period of Use:Year-round starting April 1, 2016
Validity Period:Any 5 days within 14 days of issuance (Flexible 5-day pass)
Price:International Sales Adult (ages 12 and over) 17,000 yen, Child (ages 6 to 11) 8,500 yen / Domestic Sales Adult (ages 12 and over) 18,000 yen, Child (ages 6 to 11) 9,000 yen
Valid for:Unlimited travel in reserved seats of ordinary cars on limited express (including Shinkansen), express, and local trains in the designated area.

Please check out our previous article (listed below) which features an easy-to- understand explanatory video on how to purchase and use the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area).