The SCC Niigata team members (Issei Yoshida, Jeremiah Gibber, Akira Sakakibara, David DLima, Huong Morris, Satsumi Takeo) met up in Tokyo and enjoyed a smooth Joetsu Shinkansen ride to Niigata. What a warm welcome when we arrived at Niigata Station on Sunday 17th August morning!
Our first team meeting over lunch, with program executive Ai Ogawa, local co-ordinator Kazuhide Suzuki and translator Miyoki Hara at a local sushi restaurant was much appreciated by all – working lunch meant deferring the chance to sample the local specialty sake but we caught up with that soon enough over dinner the next day with the distinguished Mayor Akira Shinoda, and some special local cultural performers.
Niigata has so many attractions – and a wonderful combination of modern and traditional, like so many things in Japan. Contrast this view of the popular imode feature phone menu (quite a change from iPhone and Android apps, that we are used to) with this interactive application at the Ikutopia Food & Flower Complex to tell you how healthy and food group-balanced your meal was (the picture shows a terrible score, reflecting the two beers consumed as well!); also check out this magnificent view of Niigata from the viewing level of the 31st floor of the “Toki Messe’ International Convention Center (the Next 21 is in the background looking out towards Sea of Japan), with the historic Bandai Bridge across the Shinano River.
Two other memorable city sights for us were the Furumachi Street Market area (looking deserted on weekday afternoon) and the Saito Family Summer Villa, with its huge private garden with carp pond. Both are truly special and reflect parts of the city that more tourists should visit, as the city is now largely known for its food (rice, fruit and vegetables) and sake.