Niigata Prefecture is in the northern part of Honshu on the Sea of Japan side. The town I lived in as an ALT 5 years ago is Matsudai, which is right in the general vicinity of the earthquakes (just slightly southwest).
Where I am living now, Moriyama, is on the shore of Lake Biwa, just northeast of Kyoto. This whole region goes by the name "Kansai" (essentially "the West") in contrast to Tokyo, which is in a region called "Kantou" ("the East"). Kansai, and in particular Osaka, has its own dialect that sounds quite different from "normal" (Tokyo) Japanese, once you have an ear for it.
wednesday_10_00, who is mentioned here regularly, lives in Chiba, the red dot near Tokyo. melf42, my other JET friend, lives in Hiroshima Prefecture--quite a bit inland from the capital city.