is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The capital is the city of Niigata with which it shares the same name. The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".HistoryUntil after the Meiji Restoration, the area that is now Niigata Prefecture was divided into Echigo Province and Sado Province. During the Sengoku period, the Nagao clan, who were at times vassals to the Uesugi, ruled a fief in the western part of modern Niigata from Kasugayama Castle. The most notable member of the Nagao clan was Nagao Kagetora, later and better known as Uesugi Kenshin. He unified the leaders of Echigo Province and became its sole ruler. By taking the surname Uesugi, he also became the head of the Uesugi clan and effectively brought their realm under his control.The city of Niigata is now the largest Japanese city facing the Sea of Japan. It was the first Japanese port on the Sea of Japan to be opened to foreign trade following the opening of Japan by Matthew Perry. It has since played an important role in trade with Russia and Korea. A freighter from North Korea visits Niigata once a month, in one of the few forms of direct contact between Japan and that country.