Niigata | Japan

Niigata (新潟市 Niigata-shi, Japanese: [niːɡata]) is the capital and the most populous city of Niigata Prefecture located in the Chūbu region of Japan. It faces the Sea of Japan and Sado Island.

As of 1 June 2016, the city had an estimated population of 807,450, and a population density of 1,110 persons per km2. The total area is 726.45 square kilometres (280.48 sq mi). Greater Niigata, Niigata Metropolitan Employment Area, has a GDP of US$43.3 billion as of 2010.

With a long history as a port town, Niigata became a free port following the Meiji Restoration. Niigata's city government was established in 1889. Mergers with nearby municipalities in 2005 allowed the city's population to jump to 810,000. The annexation of the surrounding area has also given the city the greatest rice paddy field acreage in Japan. On April 1, 2007, it became the first government-designated city on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu.

People have inhabited the Niigata area since the Jōmon period, though much of the current land was still beneath the sea at the time. According to the Nihon Shoki, a fortress was built in the area in AD 647.

In the 16th century, a port called Niigata was established at the mouth of the Shinano River, while a port town with the name Nuttari developed at the mouth of the Agano River. The area prospered beneath the rule of Uesugi Kenshin during the Sengoku Period.

A system of canals was constructed on the main island of Niigata in the 17th century. During this period, the courses of the Shinano and Agano rivers gradually changed until they poured into the Sea of Japan at the same location. As a result, Niigata prospered as a port town, serving as a port of call for Japanese trade ships traversing the Sea of Japan.

The Matsugasaki Canal was constructed in 1730 to drain the Agano River area, but in 1731, flooding destroyed the canal and caused it to become the main current of the Agano River. As a result, the volume of water flowing into the port of Niigata decreased, which in turn allowed land reclamation efforts and the development of new rice fields to proceed.

In 1858, Niigata was designated as one of the five ports to be opened for international trade in the Japan–U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce. However, the shallow water level in the port delayed the actual opening to foreign ships until 1869. The port also served as a valuable base for fishermen who roamed as far north as the Kamchatka Peninsula to catch salmon and other fish.

In 1886, the first Bandai Bridge was built across the Shinano River to connect the settlements of Niigata on the east and Nuttari on the west. Niigata annexed Nuttari in 1914.

Niigata City features a humid subtropical climate, despite receiving more yearly snowfall than cities such as Moscow, Montreal or Oslo. The climate in Niigata City is characterized by its high humidity and strong winds from the Sea of Japan. While many other parts of Niigata Prefecture tend to have heavy snow, Niigata City itself usually receives less due to its low-lying elevation and the shielding effect of Sado Island.

However, Niigata City does receive much precipitation, mostly in the form of rainfall. On average, Niigata City has 269 days of precipitation each year, about 170 days of which see rain or snowfall measuring over 1 mm. The rainy season in July brings large amounts of rain, while the winter months, especially November and December, also have much precipitation.

In summer, the south wind makes the weather rather hot. Typhoons usually bring strong foehn winds to this area, generally causing somewhat higher temperatures than in other parts of Japan. The weather on the west coast of Honshu tends to be better during the summer months than on the Pacific coast.

On October 23, 2004, the Chūetsu earthquake struck Niigata Prefecture and was measured at Shindo 6+ at Ojiya.

On January 9, 2006, a heavy winter storm struck the prefecture and its neighbors. At least 71 people died and more than 1,000 were injured. Also in 2006, a massive tsunami and earthquake damaged homes and caused casualties in the maritime areas of Niigata Prefecture, especially near Sado Island.

On July 16, 2007, another earthquake hit the area.

Niigata Prefecture hosts the Fuji Rock Festival, an annual event held at the Naeba ski resort. The three-day event, organized by Smash Japan, features more than 200 Japanese and international musicians. It is one of the largest outdoor music events in Japan, with more than 100,000 people attending in 2005.

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