When the word “kimono” comes up in conversation, many will immediately think of Japan and more specifically, Kyoto. And if that person knows alot about Japan, they may even know about Kanazawa as a huge kimono city. But very few people know that Tokamachi City in Niigata Prefecture is also a big player in the kimono market. In this article, I will explain why Tokamachi in Niigata Prefecture should be on your next itinerary when venturing outside of Tokyo.
While Tokamachi may be more notably known for its Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale (a display of many modern art sculptures across the city) or for hosting the oldest snow festival in Japan (even older than the one in Sapporo) or for having the most snowfall in the world, Tokamachi City’s kimono industry stands in the top 3 for largest production and sales for kimonos with Kyoto and Kanazawa. For those that are interested in the history of kimonos or how they are made, Tokamachi is a perfect city just outside Tokyo for tourists to venture out to. Besides, the kimonos, visitors can also experience many other things around the city. Here are our top 5 things to do in Tokamachi.
We highly recommended visiting before touring around Tokamachi City. At this museum, visitors can experience a tour with an expert on the area. It may take around 45 min to fully digest all of the information here at this museum. Visitors can learn about the history of the area as well as the origins of the city name, how people used to live in this area and many other interesting facts.
Here tourists can witness one of the most amazing experiences in Japan. This company creates kimonos from scratch. They make their own dye, create their own designs, dye each kimono by hand, and complete the creation of every kimono in-house. As Tokamachi is famous for specializing in both types of kimonos, this store also does both weaving and dyeing of kimonos. With a history of over 1,200 years, this technique has been mastered by many artisans in this city. This is a highly recommended experience as Tokamachi is the only city in Japan where visitors can put their kimono creation skills to the test.
As Tokamachi is one of the most famous cities for kimonos, we believe this is a must on any Tokamachi itinerary. Here visitors can learn how to put on kimonos from professionals in the industry. There are also many used kimonos for sale. This shop is located alongside a major street so there shouldn’t be any issues finding it. Some of the staff can speak English so language barriers aren’t much of an issue as well. We recommend allocating at least 1 hour per person if you would like to experience learning how to put the kimono on yourself. There are also rice fields nearby for those that would like a picture with a green backdrop.
4. Beech Forest
This unique forest labeled as “bijinbayashi” literally means in English “beautiful lady forest. For the past 90 years, these tall and slender trees have been growing in almost perfect unison as they were all planted around the same time. The reason the forest got named as the “beautiful lady forest” is due to the “tall and slender” shape of the trees as they represented beautiful ladies. Depending on how many photos you would like to take, we recommend at least 20 min at this location to fully experience all of the beautiful nature here.
There is a small pond about 2 min into the forest where visitors can take gorgeous pictures along the bridge. If tourists would like to see the forest with green leaves, please visit from late April - early May. If you would like to see the forest with fall leaves, please visit during early-mid November.
Niigata Prefecture is well known as one of the most famous prefectures for rice. The #1 branded rice, Koshihikari has for a while now been ranked very highly within Japan. If you visit Niigata Prefecture not only should you be eating tons of rice but we also recommend tourists to visit some of the beautiful rice fields. Here at Hoshitouge visitors can witness gorgeous terraced rice fields. Depending on the season and time of day, these rice fields are definitely a sight to see giving off a different viewpoint that is a view to remember. We highly suggest visiting this spot all year hopefully with a camera! You can find these rice fields in the Matsuno-yama and Matsudai areas within Tokamachi City.
As Tokamachi is only 90 min by train from Tokyo, we highly recommend visiting if you have the time. This area has so much wonderful history, delicious food and amazing sites to see.