Good kome, good sake and good senbei
Niigata-ken, while not technically part of Tohoku proper, makes a wonderful stepping-stone to these beautiful northern lands. Its mountains offer fantastic skiing, it has unique customs and festivals, sublime selections of sake, and remains steeped in history and culture even in the era of HDTV. From persimmon-peppered Sadogashima, where exiles were once banished, to Echigo-Yuzawa, the site of Kawabata’s Snow Country, to the mellow bars of Niigata City – this is a prefecture not to overlook.
In 2004 the prefecture suffered a devastating earthquake in the Chuetsu region: 35 people died and 80, 000 people were left homeless. The scale of the quake caught the entire nation off guard (it caused the shinkansen’s first-ever train derailment), particularly the prefectural government, who, being in a rural area, found that resources were inadequate to cope with the number of evacuees.