Apr 022013

Good afternoon everyone from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! I think today we can officially call a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining (sorta!) and it’s too warm to go out wearing a coat!

On my way back in from lunch I noticed the rest of the trees in front of city hall:

Ready to Pop!They are ready to pop any day now! Given enough time and more of this warm weather, they will be in full bloom and ready for the flower viewing season.

Cherry Blossoms at Amatsu ShrineDo you see that paper? Do you know what it is? Or where this tree might be?

Amatsu ShrineOf course, that paper is an omikuji. A sacred fortune purchased at shrines. The cherry tree is one in front of Amatsu Shrine, Itoigawa’s largest and historically most important shrine. It’s looking like the trees will be in bloom in time for Amatsu Shrine’s Grand Spring Festival.

Amastsu Shrine's Grand Spring FestivalThe Grand Spring Festival is only about a week away! Read this blog over the next few days to keep updated on it.






Apr 012013

It’s a beautiful day today as we go into April here at the Itoigawa Global Geopark! It’s not quite cherry blossom season yet, but this morning I spotted one early bloomer in front of Itoigawa City Hall:

Early Sakura

Cherry blossoms in front of Itoigawa City Hall

Only a few trees have bloomed and, even then, they aren’t even close to full bloom, but it’s a beautiful sample of the show to come!

Keep posted for more images of the spectacular sights of Itoigawa and the Itoigawa Global Geopark!


Mar 182013

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! The weather recently has been pretty ridiculous here. Warm and sunny spring one day, cold and snowy winter the next! Today, it is fantastically warm, but overcast and raining off and on. Hopefully spring comes soon! As it comes we prepare for that most Japanese of spring activities: Cherry blossom viewing.

But rather than the typical picnic and sake style of viewing, why not try it in a more ‘Geo’ style?

Weeping Cherries and Reflection


Our friends over at Itoigawa Base introduced me to the 4th Annual Weeping Cherry Flower Road Hiking Tour in Tokuai.

Many of you may know of Tokuai as half of the Tsutsuishi-Hamatokuai Geosite.  This geosite, the farthest east of all Itoigawa’s geosites, sits along the border of neighboring Joetsu City.  Traditional fishing villages and terraced farmland characterize this geosite’s scenery:

Tsutsuishi Fishing Village

Terraced Fields of Tokuai









About 20 years ago, the Tokuai Furasato Organization, a local Not-for-Profit Group, planted nearly 300 weeping cherry trees throughout Tokuai. Now that they have grown, we can enjoy their blossoms in the spring. They now plan yearly hiking trips through the area of Tokuai to view these blossoms, the local traditional scenery, and geological beauty of the Tokuai region.

Weeping Cherry & House


So if you find yourself in Itoigawa during April, why not take the time to enjoy cherry blossom viewing the “Geo” way, through this guided hike through the countryside?

Date: April 14, 2013
Time: 9am—2pm
Place: Tokuai (About a 20-30 minute walk from Tsutsuishi Station)
Fee: 1000 yen (includes pork soup and mochi [rice cake])
Facebook Event Page (Currently Japanese-only)

Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for hiking. Pork soup and mochi will be served, but please also bring a light lunch and plenty of water.
Be mindful of the weather.



Jan 172013

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Hayakawa region of Itoigawa.

Named for the Hayakawa River which runs through it, this part of Itoigawa is primarily rural, characterized by small villages and rice fields wedged between the mountains. It includes two geosites: the Tsukimizu-no-Ike and Yakeyama geosites.

Aramachi as seen from Shimohayakawa Elementary school.

Aramachi as seen from Shimohayakawa Elementary school.

While Itoigawa is a single city, it is comprised of many smaller town- and village-like communities.  This picture shows part of ‘Aramachi,’ one of the ‘towns’  of the Hayakawa region. Separated from the rest of the city by mountains and rice fields, Aramachi is fairly self-sufficient with all you would expect in a town of comparable size including restaurants, a post office, a supermarket, and local shops. Of particular interest are sweets shops and a shop that specializes in wasabi grown in the area around Tsukimizu-no-Ike Pond.

Mt. Hokogatake in Winter

Mt. Hokogatake in Winter

The Kubiki Mountains as seen from Kamihayakawa Elementary School

The Kubiki Mountains as seen from Kamihayakawa Elementary School

Further upriver are more villages and even a few hot springs resorts.  The mountain scenery here is unforgettable and I highly recommend both the Yakeyama and Tsukimizu-no-Ike Geosites to anybody visiting the Itoigawa Global Geopark.



Jan 102013
Ubagawa Bridge in the Snow

Ubagawa Bridge in the Snow

Get it, guys? I-snowy-gawa? It’s alright if you don’t, I’ll wait.



Okay, I’m sorry. That was terrible. But it is snowing really heavily today!

Sakura (Japanese cherry trees)

Sakura (Japanese cherry trees)

Itoigawa is located in the part of Japan known as Yukiguni, or ‘snow country’. While the winter temperatures here never drop much below freezing (lows average at about 0-1°C), winds blowing from continental Asia pick up large amounts of moisture while crossing the Sea of Japan. This moisture-laden weather system then breaks up upon hitting the mountain ranges that run along the center of the Japanese islands, releasing heavy snowfalls across this area.

Statues of the Bodhisattva Jizo

Jizo Statues

It is not unusual for some areas of Itoigawa to see several meters of accumulation throughout the winter season. While this weather can make life in winter quite difficult (we’re all pretty sick of snow by March!), it’s another one of the wonders of nature that gives the Itoigawa Global Geopark its spectacular scenery.

Entrance to Amatsu Shrine

Entrance to Amatsu Shrine

Unfortunately. this heavy snowfall makes many of the geosites in Itoigawa inaccessible in the winter, but it also makes for beautiful landscapes that you do not want to miss!


 Posted by at 3:39 PM