Niigata City has some great festivals throughout the year, more than any other place in the rest of the prefecture and you can always be sure of there being a great selection of yatai (street food). The festivals in the city are usually in Bandai, the main shopping district located in the north exit of Niigata Station: for example the yearly fireworks display is located a five minute walk from the station on Bandai Bridge.
During Golden Week of this year was the Bandai Earth Fest, a three day event raising awareness on environmental issues with various musical acts (the biggest band that was playing this year was Niigata Rainbow Rock) and various workshops. Recycling and environmental preservation are very serious in Japan, and so there were demonstrations on how recycling can be improved in the home life, school life, and in the workspace. Japan already has some of the best recycling practices of any industrialised nation, and to be honest it’s probably right up there with Germany in how little ends up in their landfills. In the school system, elementary schools especially, each school will be involved in an environmental project of some kind, teaching kids on the various types of plastic used in food and drink manufacturing, the dangers trash poses to wildlife, how to separate their rubbish for different collection dates etc.
The Bandai Earth Festa presented all of this in a very fun and positive way, all tied in with some truly excellent street food. What I spotted was yaki soba, mochi mochi potato, smoked chicken, sushi, ramen, deep fried oysters, sweet potato fries, curry bread, “jumbo roast steak on a stick”, fizzy drinks served in light up lightbulbs, gyouza, choco banana etc. They also had a series of beer tents serving the usual Asahi, The Premium Malts, Sapporo etc. All your typical Japanese street food was to be found here, including my absolute favourite: the donor chicken kebab served in a pitta bread with spicy sweet sauce and cabbage. We also picked up some long fries with mentaiko (Pollock roe) mayonnaise which were surprisingly good.
If you are planning on coming to try the street food here then One thing to bear in mind is that the stalls have to close up shop by 5PM to allow rush hour traffic to move through the district.