The Tokamachi region of Niigata is well known as an area filled to the brim with arts and culture. One of the best examples of this is the Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum, located a short walk away from Tokamachi Station itself.
The museum houses a number of different contemporary art pieces, including several that you can actually interact with. For instance, Leandro Erlich's "Tunnel" exhibit is a trick art piece that you can walk through - it will challenge your depth perception. Similarly, Carsten Höller's "Rolling Cylinder" piece is reminiscent of the red, white and blue cylinders you'll see placed out the front of barbershops, but you're able to walk through this one!
Within the museum there's also an eatery called the Echigo Shinanogawa Bar. Even this space is designed with art and aesthetics in mind. There are mobiles hanging from the ceiling that slowly rotate, and are meant to emulate the flowing Shinano River which is located nearby. The tables are flanked by bookshelves, giving the bar a warm and homely atmosphere. The menu at the bar utilizes locally grown vegetables as the primary component of dishes, aiming for a traditional home-cooked feel.
If you want to pick up a souvenir from your visit, you'll find the museum's gift shop just beside the bar. They have a wide variety of products for sale including books, textiles, and locally made food and drinks. Be sure to pick up some sake or rice, two items that this part of Japan is renowned for.
The museum here also acts as one of the hub facilities for the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale. The 2018 triennale event concluded in September and the next event will take place in 2021.
The Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum is located approximately 10 minutes on foot from Tokamachi Station. If you're headed there via private vehicle there is parking available at the site.
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