I would never have known about Murakami if it weren’t my father’s hometown. Since Murakami is so unknown, I think it would be best to go on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murakami,_Niigata) to get a general understanding of the city’s history and offerings. Unfortunately, the official city website’s English page is under construction.
If you decide to utilize the Japanese public transportation to its fullest extent with no thought of where you are going, perhaps then you would end up in Murakami, a city located in the Niigata prefecture. Unfortunately, I did not end in Murakami in the aforementioned fashion. My father grew up in this city of nearly 70,000, so I’ve gone to Murakami numerous times throughout my summer vacations, so I guess you could say I’m quite familiar with the area.
Murakami is quite rural and beautiful if you enjoy scenery, as it contains both the Sea of Japan on one side of the city, mountainous landscapes on the other, and long-running streams and rivers in between. Overall, it serves as a relaxing and marvelous place to stroll around town with a bottle of Pocari Sweat and walking shoes. Basically unknown to anyone who isn’t from Niigata, Murakami is a calm and quite city.
If it’s the city life you are looking for, perhaps it would be best to look away. Murakami is rich in natural landscapes and historic culture. Take a hike up Mt. Gagyuzan (locally called Oshiroyama) and you will come across the ruins of the Murakami Castle which stood many years ago. There are many local shrines to see as well. Murakami has a real traditional feel of Japan without the strong influences of Westernization and modernization like many parts of Japan.
Murakami is also famous for its spas, most notably Senami Onsen. Located in a busier area of Murakami, it is a wonderful place to go to after going to the beach or eating a refreshing bowl of soba noodles. People from other areas of Japan frequently come to Senami Onsen simply because it is just so relaxing and beautiful. Overlooking the ocean, it was most relaxing when I went there. I highly recommend anyone in the Niigata area to go to Senami Onsen, as I can assure you it will be the best spa experience you will have in Japan.
Murakami is also famous for its beef. Although markedly expensive, these slabs of thinly sliced delicacy melt in your mouth. It was most certainly the most memorable food I had in Japan, because it was just that good. After all, if you go to Murakami, it could very well be your last time, so you might as well enjoy all the splendors of the town before you regret it! If you’re ever in the Niigata area, take the hour long train ride here and experience the city for yourself, it will really help you appreciate the rural areas of Japan better.
By Kohshi A. Itagaki