Nov 262013

This Sunday, after months of construction, the new Itoigawa Station is going to be (mostly) complete!

The North Entrance to the newly built Itoigawa Station

The North Entrance to the newly built Itoigawa Station

The local rail terminal and North Entrance to Itoigawa Station is for the most part complete. A gangi, or Japanese-style roof over a footpath, is still to be built on the walkway in front of the station. This part of the station will be open for use starting December 1st. To the left of the picture is part of the old Itoiagawa Station which had been converted into a small temporary station during the construction process. From December 1st this building will be reconverted back into station offices.

The JR Itoigawa Station South Entrance and Shinkansen Building

The JR Itoigawa Station South Entrance and Shinkansen Building

On the other side of Itoigawa Station, work continues on the South Entrance and the platform for the Hokuriku Shinkansen which is scheduled to open in early 2015. Until this construction is complete, only the North Entrance of the station will be usable.

The entrance to Itoigawa Station, still closed off until Sunday

The entrance to Itoigawa Station, still closed off until Sunday

Join us Sunday morning when the gates are opened and the first passengers enter the station! The City of Itoigawa and Japan Rail will be hosting a celebratory event from 10am. Check back here tomorrow for more information!


Nov 222013

On November 20th, students from 11 local elementary, junior high, and high schools in Itoigawa gathered at Itoigawa’s Kirara Ōmi Culture Hall to present what they have learned during about Itoigawa and its Global Geopark.

Students give a presentation about Itoigawa Geopark

Students give a presentation about Itoigawa Geopark

One of the ways the Itoigawa Global Geopark interacts with the community is by working with the local Board of Education to devise a Unified Education Policy for children ages 0 through 18. This policy uses the Geopark as a teaching tool, not only for earth sciences, but also history, cultural appreciation, and community involvement.

The program includes a yearly exchange conference in which the students gather to present on what they’ve learned. This year’s conference had the theme of “Let’s Talk about Our Hometown Itoigawa.” The students presented using a variety of methods including audio/visual presentations, plays, and even musical performances.

Students present a play which describes rocks found in their local school district

Students present a play which describes rocks found in their local school district

One group of students sang the Itoigawa Geopark Ondō, a song about the Geopark written by acclaimed tsugaru-jamisen player Takahashi Chikuzan II, who now lives in Itoigawa. The students’ presentation seem to be getting better every year.

Students present a play about a well-known local legend

Students present a play about a well-known local legend

The students had an opportunity to provide feedback to other school groups during the assembly. Many were impressed with the effort other schools put into finding and presenting information about local treasures. These sort of citywide exchanges are a great introduction to community involvement for children.

Through the medium of Geopark Studies, we are attempting to reach out to these children. The children can share what they have learned about Itoigawa and the Geopark with their parents, who then share it with their communities. Through this we can succeed in the Itoigawa Geopark’s goals of creating a sustainable regional society and instilling a sense of pride in local communities. Hopefully these exchange activities will continue to be a success for years to come.


Nov 142013

Good morning from Itoigawa Global Geopark! Just a short post today, but after the recent bad weather I wanted to give proof that the weather isn’t constantly stormy and grey here in Itoigawa!

2013-11-14 09.46.12Today the skies are clear, offering a fantastic view of the Northern Alps  from the city office. Just outside the window, work continues on the renovation of Itoigawa’s Civic Center. On the other side we are offered this view:

2013-11-14 09.43.41Here we have a fantastic view of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen Itoigawa Station, which is still under construction. Beyond that, the Sea of Japan stretches as far as the eye can see.

I hope the weather is as beautiful where you are! If you are in Itoigawa, take the opportunity to explore everything the Geopark has to offer before the weather becomes too cold!




Nov 132013

Good morning, everyone, from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! It seems like only last month when Itoigawa was shattering records for hottest temperatures in Japan…

…probably because it was only last month.

That time seems ages away now as Itoigawa experiences its first stormy winter weather of the season.

Winter weather and mountainsFor the past few days the skies have been gray and every day has brought sleet and soft hail. It’s all part of a yearly cycle in which weather systems begins to roll in from the mainland across the Sea of Japan. While these weather systems do bring a number of unpleasant days like these, it also bring the large amounts of beautiful white snow which completely transform the Itoigawa landscape every year. It’s time to dig out your ski equipment, we’ll be heading to the slopes soon!



Nov 112013

From last Thursday until Saturday, 29 students and 6 staff of the Kau Yan School in Hong Kong visited the Itoigawa Global Geopark. They were accompanied with one staff member of the Hong Kong Geopark. This marks the first student exchange from Hong Kong Geopark to Japan.

Students from Kau Yan School in the Fossa Magna Museum

Geopark staff greet the Hong Kong students at Itoigawa StationStaff of the Itoigawa Global Geopark greeted students as they arrived at Itoigawa Station. Under heavy construction while preparing for the new Hokuriku Shinkansen, the station was quite cramped so we had to move the students quickly. A heavy storm had rolled in, bringing concerns of train delays and cancellations, but the students arrived safely and on time.

Marutanbo - Oyashirazu Community LodgeAfter rounding the students up onto buses, we brought them to where they would be staying during their visit to Itoigawa. Located within the Oyashirazu Geosite, Marutanbo is a beautiful lodge and community center operated by a local fishing family. With a beautiful view of the Sea of Japan and the cliffs of Oyashirazu, it offers a tranquil alternative to the hotels and inns of central Itoigawa. The meals provided include a bounty of local ingredients, including fish freshly caught by the owners.

Exchange with Itoigawa StudentsTheir visit to Itoigawa began with a trip to Itoigawa Elementary School, where they had an opportunity to interact with local students their age. Despite the language barrier, the two groups of students were able to enjoy their time together, playing a variety of games.

HK students visit Fossa Magna MuseumNext, the students visited Fossa Magna Museum to learn more about Itoigawa Global Geopark and its connection to Hong Kong as a Sister Geopark. The children were particularly delighted by the large collection of jade and other precious and captivating stones on display at the museum.

P1920143Next, we took the children to Nou River, where they tried salmon catching for the first time. We were worried how children from Hong Kong would react to this experience, but we were happy to see how much they enjoyed it.

P1920157While some were a bit startled by how quickly salmon can move, they soon became pros at sneaking up behind to grab them by the tail.

2013-11-08 17.09.04There final visit of the program was to Itoigawa’s Kaiyo High School, located in the Nou District, to observe a training session of the local world champion sumo team. The students seemed to be very impressed with the performance, and one student even accepted the challenge of the local grand champion:

P1920213We were all very sad to see them go, but we hope they enjoyed their time here in Itoigawa and look forward to more student exchanges in the future.



Let’s hope for many more years of close friendship between Hong Kong and Itoigawa.











Oct 242013

Good afternoon everyone from the Itoigawa Geopark! As late season typhoons continue to  draw close to Japan, we prepare for more unseasonably warm and rainy weather.

During a brief break in the rain, a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to visit Itoigawa’s mountains for some light hiking. We packed our bags and drove up to the Umidani Gorge Geosite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main visitor’s facility for Umidani Gorge Geopark is Sankyo Park, which features ample parking, camping facilities, and an observation deck. The park is the starting point for two trails, one which climbs up to the peak of Mt. Komagatake and another which winds down into the Umidani Gorge. It is the second trail which we decided to take.

2013-10-13 10.22.51Upon arriving at the trail head, the massive rock face of Mt. Senjogatake immediately commands our attention. At only about 1200m (about 3900 feet), Senjogatake is not a particularly tall mountain, but its shape and bands of exposed andesite give it a striking appearance.

The mountain itself is the remnants of a once submarine volcano. The diagonal bands were formed by the repeated flows of magma. They were exposed when the mountain was split by a combination of plate tectonics and erosion by the Umigawa River which flows through the gorge.

2013-10-13 10.46.26Walking down the trail, we caught this beautiful view of the appropriately named Nametaki, or Licking Falls, spilling down into the gorge below.

2013-10-13 11.18.13Continuing further down into the gorge, we drew ever closer to the Umigawa River below. Seeing such a small river, it is difficult to believe that it could have carved such a massive gorge.

2013-10-13 10.50.53As we came to the point where the trail crosses the river, we came to the city posted warning sign. The Umigawa River, like so many rivers in Japan, may be small, but its force should never be underestimated. After rains, snowmelts, and other situations which cause the river to swell, it is important to never attempt fording the Umigawa as its swift currents can easily sweep away even an experienced hiker. When the river is calmer, it is fairly trivial (albeit wet) to cross.

2013-10-13 10.56.45We finally arrived at the river itself. Filled with massive boulders and gushing rapids, the crossing can be a bit daunting for the inexperienced, even on relatively calm days. My friend and I had a fairly tight schedule, so we crossed only halfway to a comfortable-looking boulder to enjoy a late breakfast. Had we had more time, we could’ve continued the extra 30-40 minutes to the stunning Umidani Highlands deeper within the gorge.

2013-10-13 11.20.01On our way back up, I took a few pictures of the trail itself. For most of the trek, it is quite narrow. It is important to walk slowly and to take extra care when the ground is slippery. Make use of the safety ropes wherever they are installed.

2013-10-13 11.30.39Despite being mid-October, we were too early for Umidani’s usually stunning autumn foliage; only a few trace hints of yellow were visible in the trees. But the weather was beautiful and it was a near perfect day for hiking. I hope the next opportunity I get to hike will be more colorful.











Oct 182013


Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Geopark!

We have a chilly, but sunny day today in the Itoigawa Geopark. The typhoon which caused so much damage in other parts of the country has passed us. Our thoughts go out to those in affected areas.

Last weekend, the Itoigawa Coast Geosite hosted a Railroad Festival in front of Itoigawa Station. The weather was absolutely perfect and the turnout was fantastic.




A variety of events were planned for the festival, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hokuriku Main Line which services Itoigawa. A relay event was held from Omi Station to Itoigawa Station, to commemorate the laying of the last section of track which completed the Hokuriku Line, film and television star (and Itoigawa native!) Masaru Nagai participated in the relay and gave autographs.

The local Geo☆Girls idol group gave a variety of performances, along with Hisui Taiko, one of Itoigawa’s local taiko drum groups.

tetu03And a miniature steam train offered rides for children.

Itoigawa’s gourmet delight, Black Yakisoba, was so popular at the event that the stand completely sold out. With such an excellent turnout, we are even more excited for the upcoming opening of the Hokuriku  Bullet Line.



Oct 092013

Good afternoon everyone! It’s another scorcher today at the Itoigawa Global Geopark!


That’s right! Thirty degrees in the shade! In October! What is the world coming to? The Oumi Branch of the Itoigawa City Office reported a high of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature should drop this evening as Typhoon #24 comes closer to the coast. The wind is quite strong here and the skies are beginning to darken, but we aren’t expecting to see a great deal of rain from the now greatly weakened typhoon.


In nicer news, while it is still a few weeks off, we are beginning to see a bit of autumn color in central Itoigawa. This weekend I will visit the mountains to see how the foliage is coming along there! Check back for more pictures next week!



Oct 072013

Good afternoon everyone! Here at the Itoigawa Global Geopark, it’s sweltering hot!
26 in the Shade!

At the small shaded plaza in front of Itoigawa Station, the thermometer read 26°C (79°F) this afternoon. Other parts of town are experiencing temperatures as high as 30°C (85°F)! It’s hard to believe such a warm day in October.

View from Geopark Office

While the warm weather is certainly enjoyable, it means a late autumn foliage season. The trees are not changing in time for the upcoming three day weekend, which may prove disappointing for visitors. Hopefully the leaves will begin changing soon!



Sep 182013

Last week, on the 9th, the Itoigawa Global Geopark had its certification renewed at the 3rd annual Asia Pacific Geoparks Network Symposium held at the Jeju KAL Hotel in Jeju, South Korea.


The announcement was made as part of the welcome dinner, in the following picture you can see the tension in the air as representatives from around the world wait to see how their geoparks fared in the recertification:


Tension was equally high back home at the Itoigawa City Office, as members of the public gathered to watch a live feed of the results.


At 6:20pm, the Global Geoparks Network representative displayed a list of Geoparks which received recertification…


…and Itoigawa was on the list! In addition to Itoigawa, Toya Caldera – Usu Volcano Geopark and Unzen Volcanic Area Geopark also received recertification. This means the first three Global Geoparks in Japan all passed their first round of recertification.

CongratsCongratulations and thanks are in order to all the people of Itoigawa, without whom the Itoigawa Global Geopark would not be possible. Let’s all work together to make the Itoigawa Global Geopark the best it can be!