Niigata (新潟市 Niigata-shi?) is the capital and the most populous city of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It lies on the northwest coast of Honshu, the largest island of Japan, in the Chūbu region and faces the Sea of Japan and Sado Island. As of January 31, 2012, the city has an estimated population of 804,193 and a population density of 1,107.57 persons per km². The total area is 726.09 km². With a long history as a port town, Niigata became a free port following the Meiji Restoration. Niigata's city government was established in 1889. Mergers with nearby municipalities in 2005 allowed the city's population to jump to 810,000. The annexation of the surrounding area has also given the city the greatest rice paddy field acreage in Japan. On April 1, 2007, it became the first government-designated city on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu.