Shibata Castle, Niigata Prefecture
I first visited Shibata in April 2013. Shibata is located in Niigata prefecture which is on the western coast of Japan's main island and is known for its pristine landscape. Within the prefecture is the second most extensive land area devoted to National Parks. Ijimino Park and Ominesan Sakura Park are not to be missed. Niigata is third in total sake production and first in the production of premium ginjo and daiginjo sake. Check out the tour and sake tasting at Ichishima Brewery. This sake brewery has been in the Ichishima family since it was founded in 1790. Touring Shibata Castle gives you the sense of what it was like when it was first constructed in 1598. Of course, the castle has been fully restored including its two turrets. There's lots to see and do in Shibata. For onsen, try out Tsukioka Onsen and Shiroyama Onsen. There are several comfortable hotels. If touring historical sites and gardens is on your "to do" list, check out Shimizuen and Ichishimatei. Enjoy!