Niigata City, Niigata

Niigata Port, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of its opening in January 2019, flourished as a city where small cargo vessels, like Kitamae-bune sailing across the Japan Sea and riverboats, gathered. The port had an extensive network of small pathways leading to the harbour. There is a huge commercial merchant’s house and a shipowner’s residence on one street. The influence of regional cultures carried from distances as far away as Kyoto remain to this day. Of particular note is the folk song “Sado Okesa”. Kitamae-bune brought considerable wealth and prosperity to Niigata.

  • ports of call

Cultural Properties of Niigata

  • Hiyoriyama

    A place to forecast the weather for the navigation (Mitokyo) of Kitamae-bune. The Sumiyoshi Shrine and directional/guiding stones are still there today.

  • Former Second House and Garden of the Saito Family

    A villa built in the Taisho period by the Saito family, whose wealth derived from Kitamae-bune. Notably, the garden skillfully utilizes the sand dunes of the beach in the background to create an impression and atmosphere of isolated, forested mountains and quiet valleys, even though it is on flat ground.

  • Enkikan (The Main Building of Former Saito Family House)

    A mansion built in the Meiji period by the Saito family, who made their wealth through Kitamae-bune. Different wood like cedar, rosewood and ebony are used for the four sides of the house, giving it a luxurious look.

  • Former Ozawa Family House

    The store and residence of the Ozawa family. Mr Ozawa was a merchant who also engaged in the Kitamae-bune shipping business. It is a typical example of a tradesmen's house in Niigata Town at that time.

  • Japanese Dance of the Ichiyama School (Furumachi Geigi)

    The founding of the art of Furumachi Geigi that supported Komachi, Niigata made it one of the biggest entertainment districts nationwide because of the prosperity created by Kitamae-bune.

  • Lion-Dog Statues Guarding Minato Inari Shrine

    The Komainu (lion-dog stautes) of Minato Inari Shrine near the former mooring area. It is said that prostitutes circled the lion-dog satues and made petitions so that the regular boatman of Kitamae-bune stayed longer at the port.

  • Niigata Festival (Minato Festival / Sumiyoshi Festival)

    It is believed that this festival started in order to worship Sumiyoshi, the god of the sea, for the safety of voyages including Kitamae-bune.

  • Documents Relating to the Magistrate of Niigata, Kawamura Nagataka

    These are documents that Nagataka Kawamura, the first magistrate, recorded for the creation of Minato-machi, Niigata, which prospoered as a port because of business from Kitamae-bune. There are still detailed documents on customs at the end of the Edo Period and on the beginnings of the Minato Festival.

  • A Large Ship's Ema

    Mr Jirokichi Ichishima and his family owned his Kitamae-bune boats with pride. (he had 40 Sengoku-bune (large junks). The ema shows the stacking of rice which was to be used to pay an agricultural tax in a system called Oshiromai in the shogunate's territory in Niigataminato (Niigata Port). The vivid colors can be seen in this ema. The ema was dedicated to Hakusan Shrine in Niigata Town.

  • A Carved Ema of a Shipwreck Dedicated at the Konpira Shrine

    An ema dedicated by Yagozaemon Suzuki, a small cargo vessel wholesaler of Kitamae-bune, in gratitude for his ship being saved from distress. Unusual carving techniques are used on the ema.

  • A Model of a Japanese Ship Dedicated at the Konpira Shrine

    A model of the ship dedicated by Kitamae-bune shipowners and the boatmen to pray for maritime safety. In addition to Niigata Town, items used for dedications and prayers from various places inside and outside of the prefecture are seen, They show how Niigataminato (Niigata Port) prospered because of Kitamae-bune.