Niigata Prefecture, a long prefecture facing the Sea of Japan, is situated in the center of Honshu, the largest of Japan's four main islands. It prospered as a port on the Sea of Japan during the Edo period in the 17th and 18th centuries, and, after the 19th century, developed as a base for trade with Russia and South Korea. With the Echigo Mountain Range in the southeastern part of the prefecture as its core, 2,000-meter-high mountains stand one after another to form a stretch of highlands. The areas between mountains, which abound with beautiful nature, are dotted with ski resorts and hot springs. The Shinano River, flowing from the mountains to the Sea of Japan, boasts of being the longest river in Japan. Around the Shinano River basin is an expanse of fertile land called the Niigata Plains, where great success in rice farming has been achieved. Just off the coast in the Sea of Japan is Sado Island, the biggest island in Japan apart from the four main islands, and the site where much gold was found during the Edo period.
Niigata is home to many leading Japanese sake breweries which make their sake with high quality rice and water. There are many restaurants where you can savor sake with fresh seafood, naturally making Niigata a region where you can enjoy Japanese tastes and traditions to your heart's content. The center of the prefecture's administration and economy is Niigata City. It is a beautiful "city of water," with the Shinano River running through it and the Sea of Japan on its northwestern side. Since the 19th century it has prospered as a port of trade with foreign countries. The Denka Big Swan Stadium, where 2002 FIFA World Cup soccer matches took place and Toki Messe, the site of the 2008 G8 Labour Ministers Meeting and, the 2010 APEC Japan Ministerial Meeting on Food Security ,are located in Niigata City, and the prefecture has become a gateway to Northeast Asia.