We got to Sakata on the Japan Sea about three in the afternoon of July 25, 2012. We checked into a hotel visible from the train station. Often finding the obscure hotels we tend to frequent requires enquiry at the Koban or small police station frequently located near the train station. Later we walked back to the station and enquired about the bicycles for rent. Although the tourism office closed at five we were given the keys to two bicycles and were asked to drop the keys in a slot when returning the bicycles after five. The bicycles were free. This is a nice feature for a city to have, but in some cities this could be a little impractical. Sakata appeared to be small enough and the pace of life slow enough to allow strangers on the street with bicycles. We would have liked to have seen a scenic view of the Japan Sea, but this was not possible as the port was the busiest part of the city. One of the prime tourism features is a series of huge black storage sheds used to keep rice cool until it can be shipped south and around the southern tip of Honshu back up north to the consumers in Tokyo. The coastal plains of Yamagata prefecture, Niigata to the south and Akita to the north are renowned for the quality of their rice. Taking the slow train from Sakata to Akita some of the views reminded us of the Canadian prairies with fields of rice (not wheat) extending almost to the horizon.
Click on Sakata to see photographs on Picasa.