Jun 102013

Good afternoon, everyone! This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Omotesando, the large, highscale shopping avenue often called the ChampsÉlysées of Tokyo. I of course made a point to stop by Nespace, Niigata’s Tourism Information Center in Tokyo.

2013-06-09 13.11.00Located a short walk from the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line’s Omotesando Station, Nespace offers convention space, tourism information, a variety of Niigata products, and a restaurant/cafe specializing in Niigata delicacies.

2013-06-09 12.57.46Inside, Itoigawa’s Makochan Udon, which I introduced earlier in this blog, is available for the first time outside of Niigata.

2013-06-09 13.00.22Also available is a wide selection of sakes. Niigata is one of the major sake-producing regions of Japan and with 5 local breweries, Itoigawa is no exception. In the center of this photograph are two of Itoigawa’s sakes available for purchase in Nespace, Tsukimizu-no-ike on the left and Nechi Otokoyama on the right.

Before coming to visit Itoigawa, why not sample some of Niigata’s treats in Tokyo?




May 272013

Good morning from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

I’m posting this to apologize for the lack of updates, but as we draw ever nearer to our re-certification, we just keep getting busier and busier! We are working harder than ever before to ensure the Itoigawa Global Geopark is worthy of that title!

Things look to be calming down a little bit, so keep posted here for more updates about news and events from around the Geopark!


May 072013

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! Today is the first day back from Golden Week, a long series of holidays in late April and early May. I’m feeling well-rested and ready to start working again to bring you the latest information from Itoigawa!

My Golden Week was a relaxed one. While most people use the long holiday as an opportunity to travel far and wide, I’m quite content to enjoy the sights right here in Itoigawa. I’ll share one of those locations with you today!

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Nanasha-Ookami, a small shrine located in the Rendaiji District of Central Itoigawa, is a quiet shrine on a hilltop. It is unknown how long this shrine has existed.

2013-04-29 15.54.18 turn

The shrine has a surprisingly large grounds for its size, making it an excellent place to stop and forget the outside world for a few moments.

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Of particular interest is this building, located beside the main shrine. Called the Gohyakurakando, or Hall of the 500 Enlightened. This building houses a large collection of Buddhist statues, carved during the early 1800s by a single priest who lived nearby.

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Another view of the Gohyakurakando from behind the main shrine building.
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Such displays can be found throughout Japan and Itoigawa is no exception. The statues were carved by a single priest over the course of 10 years. He placed these statues in his temple, which has since been lost, as a way of praying for the people of his community. A popular folk legend says that if you look long enough at the faces of these statues, each one unique, you will find your own face among them.

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I just hope mine isn’t the guy on the left with the shoulder problem.



Apr 232013

Good afternoon again from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! Today I’d like to share with you another upcoming event in Itoigawa: The Spring Flowers of Itoigawa Bus Tour!

Organized by the Itoigawa Bus Company, this tour will run every day from Saturday, May 11th until Wednesday, May 22nd, the perfect time of year for seeing some of the late spring flowers of Itoigawa.

When most people think of Japan in the spring, they naturally think of cherry blossoms. While the cherry blossom is without a doubt Japan’s most famous and most popular flower, spring brings with it a wealth of other flowers to enjoy. This tour gives participants an opportunity to enjoy two of Itoigawa’s main late spring flowers: wisteria and azaleas.


The first stop on the tour is here at Tsukimizu-no-Ike Pond, part of the Tsukimizu-no-Ike Geosite. This small pond has long been known for its beautiful wild wisteria plants which bloom in mid- to late-May. The pond itself is also a beautiful sight, with massive boulders scattered about it when it was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago when a nearby mountain collapsed.


The bus will also visit nearby Aramachi’s Wisteria Festival, in which local townsfolk display their own prized wisteria plants. These plants can be seen along the main road that passes through the Aramachi District. The village also has a few nice shops selling locally produced sweets and other goods.


IMG_5363The tour will end at the Kaneko Azalea Garden. This garden, planted on a privately-owned hill with over 3500 azaleas, has been planted and cared for by the same family for two generations. The view from the top is stunning, with thousands of azaleas spreading in all directions.

In addition, the bus tour will visit the Tanimura Museum of Art and Gyokusui-en Garden, where lunch will be provided.

If after the cherry blossom season ended you feel you haven’t quite had your fill of flower-viewing, be sure to take this opportunity to enjoy more of the spring scenery here in Itoigawa.




  • Time: Saturday, May 11 – Wednesday, May 22nd
    • Bus departs at 10:10am in front of the Jade Kingdom Center by Itoigawa Station
  • Tickets: 2900 yen for adults   1900 yen for children 12 and under
    • Price includes lunch and all admission fees
  • Please dress for the weather and in clothing and shoes suitable for walking

Apr 052013

Good afternoon again from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

Box Seating ConstructionProgress continues at Amatsu Shrine in preparation for the Grand Spring Festival. These temporary box seats are built every year to accommodate the crowds of people who gather to watch the ‘action’ of the kenka mikoshi (see yesterday’s post!). Today, I want to introduce the Spring Festival’s ‘serenity,’ the ancient court dances called bugaku.

Children Procession

Before the action of the fighting shrines, visitors are treated to a preview of the bugaku as the children who perform it are paraded into the shrine grounds, carried by their fathers.

Child in CostumeThe children wear traditional dress and their faces are painted. The children wear different costumes related to the dance they will perform.

Bugaku Court Dance

Overall there are 12 court dances. Eight performed by children, four performed by adults.

While the exact year is unknown, the dances have been performed here for at least 500 years and they remain as they have for centuries, passed down from each generation to the next.

The slow, graceful movements of these dances form a striking contrast to the excitement and frenzy of the fighting shrines, making the bugaku of Amatsu Shrine a beautiful gateway to a time long past. If you visit Amatsu Shrine for the Grand Spring Festival, do not leave after the fighting shrines has ended, because these dances are not to be missed.