2017 Road Trip day 4: A drive along the north coast to Niigata

We woke up super early after a fantastic night out in Nagano and it was absolutely freezing in our room at the ryokan. It is fair to say I felt a bit fragile from the amount of beer consumed the night before and struggled to convince myself to crawl out from my cosy futon to the bathroom and into the shower. I should have trusted my instincts because when I eventually did haul myself out of bed the bathroom was even colder than the room we had slept in!

Once showered we gathered our things together, checked out and then went to take a few pictures around the hotel area before jumping in the car.

It had snowed a little over night and this was actually one of the only times Tom had to use the ice scraper that he'd insisted on packing! We purchased our breakfast and supplies for the day from a nearby Lawson before keying our next stop into the satnav. The route for the day was along the north coast of Japan to Niigata where we had our next hotel booked for the evening. The general route that Google and our satnav suggested looked like this:

However, whilst this was the quickest way to get there it was also via the expressways and thus a tad pricey. Luckily, it being Japan and all, there is a toll free route that runs practically alongside the expressway. Whilst it would take a bit longer we opted to take it as we had no official planned stops for the day and I'm so very glad we did. The route took us through some absolutely spectacular mountain ranges where we saw incredibly deep snow and plenty of bridges, tunnels and mountain ranges that were very beautiful.

Some cars that weren't going anywhere any time soon:

We stopped at the services briefly for a toilet break and met this chap:

The view wasn't bad here either!

After our pit stop and before we reached the coast near Joetsu the snow disappeared all together and the land became flat. It was a glorious day and the cold winter sun made it even more magnificent. We stopped at a random beach so that Tom could touch the Sea of Japan (I say this because I was still feeling under the weather and opted to stay in the car!).

We decided to head into the next town - Kashiwazaki to pop to the 100 yen shop to purchase some essential products including hand cream, as my hands were getting really dry and sore from the cold. It was a bit too early for lunch (even by Japanese standards) so we took our time perusing the multitude of quality goods and then went to Cafe Gusto for lunch. This is a chain that we’ve seen many times around Tokyo but never visited and since embarking on this trip had seen plenty of their road side outlets. It’s actually one of the largest family chain restaurants in Japan and is popular for its hambagu, spaghetti and low prices. We both went for the cheese filled Hambagu set, Tom paired this with rice whilst I had bread and we took full advantage of the 'drinks set' add on.

From Kashiwazaki onwards the road ran parallel with the coast and we passed through some quaint seaside town. In parts it felt like we were in the USA perhaps driving through Maine in the winter time. The road was popular with motorcyclists and having experienced the views it's easy to see why. I'm afraid we didn't stop to take any pictures of this part of the route though.

We made it to Niigata for around 3pm, our hotel The Chisun Inn Niigata Chuo IC was situated on the outskirts of town near a retail park so we spent some time there before checking in. A combination of the night before and day of driving had really taken it out of us and we both had a nap as soon as we checked in. When we planned this trip we'd pencilled this day as a dry day (no alcohol!) and that was clearly a good shout as neither of us were really in the mood for booze.

In the evening we drove into town for a quick look around and decided it would probably be an excellent place for izakaya hopping if we were in the market for a night out. Instead we went to a branch of Sushiro for an epic quantity of interesting conveyer belt sushi all for less than 20 quid! We were back at the hotel very early and were asleep by 8:30pm so I'll leave you with some pics of the sushi: