Nagaoka is a town, population 190,000, located in Niigata prefecture, Japan. Its claim to fame is the annual fireworks ("hanabi" in Japanese) festival in the beginning of August each year. This year it was August 1st-3rd. Tens of thousands of people flood out from Tokyo on the Shinkansen each year to see the display. The Shinkansen ride takes about 1.75 hours, but you can also take a bus or local trains there in 4 or 5 hours.
Aside from the festival, there's not much all that special about this town. but the town contains both a NOVA branch and an Aeon branch, in addition to numerous JET opportunities so you could end up in this area if you become an English teacher, just as I did.
So if you're stuck in this town for a while, here are some good things to do in the area:
- Drink tap beer ("nama beeru" in Japanese) at Desperate Rock Bar.
- Visit Yukyuzan Park, especially during cherry blossom season, or "hanami."
- Climb Yahiko mountain, located near Sanjo. There's a miniature shrine on the top, and you can drink spring water right out of the mountain.
- Take the local train to Kashiwazaki for 650 yen and go to the beach. You will be the only one there unless it's between July 20th and August 20th.
- Talk to the "gaijin" who sell cheap jewelry on the street at night.
- Wander around downtown at night until some drunk salaryman picks you up and buys you food and drinks. Works whether you're male or female.
- Go skiing or snowboarding. There are many great places in the region. Visit www.skijapanguide.com/ for more info. I liked GALA in Echigo-Yuzawa.