Jun 032016

This weekend is an event-packed weekend at the Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark! Whether you’re visiting for our mountains or our sea, there’s something for you this Sunday!

The Itoigawa Fish Festival will be held on Sunday, June 5 from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

The Itoigawa Fish Festival will be held on Sunday, June 5 from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Do you like seafood? Have you ever wanted to participate in a fish auction? Then you need to come down to the Itoigawa Fish Market (Map) at Port Himekawa this Sunday! Local fishermen will gather to share the very best of their catches at the 25th Annual Itoigawa Fish Festival. In addition to a stunning array of fresh, locally caught fish, visitors can enjoy a bluefish tuna cleaning demonstration, an amateur fish auction, and a variety of local foods and drinks including freshly grilled seafood! The festival runs until 2:00 p.m., but usually sells out early, so get here as soon as you can!

Visitors pack into the Itoigawa Fish Market to see the day's catch!

Visitors pack into the Itoigawa Fish Market to see the day’s catch!

Visitors enjoy festival food from trucks and stalls

Visitors enjoy festival food from trucks and stalls


A special retro bus will shuttle visitors from Itoigawa Station to the Fish Market, departing 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00.

If you’re more interested in Itoigawa’s mountains, then join us in the Umidani Gorge Geosite for the Spring Umidani Festival.

Mt. Senjogatake forms one wall of the Umidani Gorge

Mt. Senjogatake forms one wall of the Umidani Gorge

The Umidani Spring Festival celebrates the opening of Umidani Sankyo Park (Map) and its campground and many hiking trails. In addition to enjoying wild vegetables, local food and cultural demonstrations, visitors are invited to join in the opening climb of Mt. Komagatake. The climb will be accompanied by a Shinto priest who will give a special blessing at the top of the mountain. (Opening climb departs promptly at 8:00 a.m.)

The "Yamabiraki" or "Mountain Opening" Ceremony

The “Yamabiraki” or “Mountain Opening” Ceremony

Whether you get excited for the sea or the mountains, you’re sure to experience something new and exciting at Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark this weekend! See you there!

Apr 112014

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

Yesterday was the Amatsu Shrine Grand Spring Festival, which is better known as the Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri. I wrote about this festival in my last post, so I won’t bore you with the particulars again, I’m just going to share some pictures from yesterday’s festival:

Shrine and Cherry Blossoms

The cherry blossoms were in near full bloom yesterday, providing a beautiful backdrop to the day’s festivities.

Unfortunately, just before the main event, it began to rain quite heavily, but that didn’t dishearten the teams of men carrying their shrines:


And as the shrines came down to bear upon each other, it was easy to forget the cold rain in all the excitement:

Kenka Mikoshi

Kenka Mikoshi 2

A great big thank you is in order for the men of Oshiage and Teramachi districts, their perseverance made this year’s Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri possible!





Apr 032014

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! It’s warm and calm here in Itoigawa. Now that it is finally spring, we can look forward to beautiful cherry blossoms and spring festivals.

In particular, next Thursday (April 10th) is Amatsu Shrine’s Grand Spring Festival, better known as the Kenka Matsuri, or Fighting Festival.

Kenka Mikoshi, or Fighting Shrines, at the Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri

Kenka Mikoshi, or Fighting Shrines, at the Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri

The Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri is an centuries old festival in which two teams from neighboring districts run circles around the shrine grounds while carrying large omikoshi, portable shrines carried on poles. They then ram these shrines together in a simulated fight. Traditionally, this festival was done to ensure a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Preparation is underway at the shrine for next week's festival

Preparation is underway at the shrine for next week’s festival

Today, work is underway to prepare the shrine grounds for the annual event. The grounds are cleaned and readied, and stands are built on the side to accommodate the crowds that will gather to witness the spectacle.

Amatsu Shrine and Sign

The festival will be held on April 10th. Be sure to arrive before 10 am to fully enjoy the festival before the fighting begins. Hope to see you there!


Jan 312014

Good morning from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

The weather has been unseasonably warm here as of late, with some days feeling more like spring than winter. Normally characterized by meters of snowfall, this year’s winter has seen mostly heavy rain. While the warm weather and lack of snow underfoot certainly makes life easier for the people of Itoigawa, there’s something a little sad about a winter without snow.

Now, I’m writing this to share some exciting news:

Five Oh Oh!We’ve hit 500 likes on the Itoigawa Global Geopark Facebook Page! If you’ve liked us on Facebook, thank you so much for your support! If you haven’t liked us on Facebook, what’s stopping you? The Itoigawa Global Geopark Facebook Page is probably the best place to get the latest information about the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

Finally, I’d like to introduce an event happening in Itoigawa tomorrow at the Jade Kingdom Centre (the tourism centre located beside the Itoigawa Station):

As part of the Itoigawa Geopark Lecture Series, we are presenting:

“No formality! Yoshimoto-style Communication!”

Yoshimoto CommunicationDon’t let the fact that it is part of a lecture series put you off. This is not your typical lecture. It feature two guests: Itoigawa-born comedienne Natsuko Yokosawa and the Niigata-based comedy duo Backscreen! The weather is supposed to be nice this Saturday, so why not come by the Jade Kingdom Centre and enjoy the show? The lecture begins at 1:30pm, entry is free!




Jan 292014

Good morning from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

If you were given only one word to describe Itoigawa’s winter, what would it be? For me, there is only one:


The winters here along the Sea of Japan are harsh. Cold, blustery weather, meters upon meters of snow, it’s enough to make holing up indoors for three months look like a sound life decision. And yet last Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Itoigawa in the freezing rain. Why? One word:




Let’s get this out of the way: Monkfish are ugly. They are large, fat, misshapen blobs that are almost entirely mouth. Large members of the anglerfish family, they are so fat they actually have almost no ability to swim. But every bit as hideous as they are, monkfish are delicious. Monkfish flesh is also soft. It is so soft. When prepared in soup or stew, it seems to just melt on the tongue like butter.

One of the main features of the Itoigawa Global Geopark is its extreme variance in elevation. From 0m at the coast to 2,766m at the peak of Mt. Korenge, the mountains of Itoigawa seem to fall directly into the sea. And this is because they do! The seabed drops sharply off the coast of Itoigawa, and this deep seabed rich in marine life provides a perfect habitat for the monkfish. This is why Itoigawa has become one of the best places to enjoy this rare delicacy.

A line forms in the background while people enjoy soup under tents

A line forms in the background while people enjoy soup under tents

Monkfish soup is ladled into bowls

Monkfish soup is ladled into bowls

This past Sunday, over a thousand people lined up in the cold and the rain to take part in the 2014 Itoigawa Monkfish Festival, held every January in front of Itoigawa Station. Most people attend the festival for the monkfish soup, which is sold for the incredibly low price of only 500 yen per bowl, but the festival also features a tsuruishigiri demonstration.

TsurushigiriTsurushigiri is a traditional method of cleaning and slicing a monkfish while it is hanging from a hook. It is easiest to clean this way due to its immense size, but it also used to act as a sort of spectacle to draw customers to fisherman’s stalls and shops. At the Itoigawa Monkfish Festival, you can take in this traditional performance, provided you have the stomach for it!

Visitors to the festival enjoy a variety of other seafoods

Visitors to the festival enjoy a variety of other seafoods

Even if seeing a massive ugly fish being gutted and sliced isn’t really your thing, the monkfish festival has a lot to offer anyone who just enjoys seafood. A number of vendors arrive to sell locally caught fish and produce, both fresh and prepared in a variety of ways.

If you are interested in visiting the Itoigawa Monkfish Festival this year, you haven’t missed the boat! While the Itoigawa Event finished last Sunday, it will be held again at Oyashirazu Pier Park on February 2nd and Marine Dream Nou on February 9th! While both of these locations have ample parking, they are popular tourist destinations and so parking can be limited. Be sure to arrive early if traveling by car!

Also, monkfish soup is limited, so arrive as early as you can if you want to guarantee yourself a bowl!

Hope to see you there!


2014 Itoigawa Monkfish Festival – Oumi Location
2/2 (Sun) 10:00~14:00 Oyashirazu Pier Park (Limit 500 bowls)
15 min. walk from Oyashirazu Station

2014 Itoigawa Monkfish Festival – Nou Location
2/9 (Sun) 10:00~14:00 Marine Dream Nou (Limit 1000 bowls)
1 hr. walk from Nou Station


Dec 032013

Yesterday, the JR commenced testing of the completed section of the upcoming Hokuriku Shinkansen Line.

East iThe “East i,” one of JR East’s test trains, pulled into Itoigawa Station’s shinkansen platform (still under construction) yesterday at about noon. 100 members of the community were selected to welcome the train into the station and inspect the progress being made in construction of the platform. From now until March of next year, JR East will be running such test trains daily between Nagano Station and Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station in Toyama Prefecture.

East i Leaves the StationAfter the welcome event, the East i started up again and began its slow journey toward Toyama Prefecture. While testing the line, the train only runs at about 30kph. But even at its leisurely pace, the sight of finally seeing a train on the shinkansen tracks filled us all with excitement. Less than two years left!




Dec 022013

Good morning everyone! Yesterday, people from all over Itoigawa came to the Itoigawa Station Reopening Event.

The newly opened Itoigawa Station

The newly opened Itoigawa Station

The new Itoigawa Station stands in the middle. The design of the station takes hints from the traditional machiya architectural style, a type of townhouse architecture which dominates Itoigawa’s downtown area. In the photograph above, the station stands in the middle with the former Itoigawa Station to the right, and the Jade Kingdom Centre to the left. To the back, the Hokuriku Shinkansen Itoigawa Station is still under construction. A gangi, a type of roofed footpath, will be built in front of the station. Likewise the rotary is scheduled to be repaved and remodeled.

The weather was cloudy and gray, with intermittent drizzle. But despite the inclement weather, the turnout was even greater than expected!

The main entrance to Itoigawa Station

The main entrance to Itoigawa Station

Walking around the rotary to the front, we come to the new entrance to Itoigawa Station. Much wider than before, this entrance can easily accommodate large groups.

An escalator offers easy access to the station concourse, which is now located on the second floor

An escalator offers easy access to the station concourse, which is now located on the second floor

Within the entrance is an escalator and wide stairs ascending to the concourse above.

First view of the new concourse

First view of the new concourse

Atop the escalator, we are afforded our first ever view of the new concourse, packed with people who have arrived to see the new station for themselves.

First View Down the ConcourseLooking down the concourse, past the crowds, we can see the ticket window and gate. A temporary wall blocks access to the southern half of the station, which is still under construction.

1st Floor Waiting RoomAvoiding the crowds upstairs, I went down to the first floor to take a look at the new first floor waiting room. Spacious and with ample seating, the new waiting room is also equipped with a row of displays. These displays provide information about trains and regional bus routes. They also provide information about tourism opportunities within Itoigawa and the Itoigawa Geopark.

Station KioskThe station kiosk’s final location will be within the southern half, near the shinkansen boarding gate and 2nd floor waiting room. Until then, it finds itself temporarily crammed in a corner next to the waiting room. Located below the main concourse, don’t miss it as it is still the ideal spot to buy snacks or drinks for enjoying on the train.

Concourse DisplayBack to the main concourse above, a massive display has been installed which will provide tourist information as well as bus and train schedules.

Shinkansen E7 ModelA model of the E7 Series Shinkansen on display within the station. This is the model of train which will be used on the Hokuriku Shinkansen when it opens in 2015.

Corridor to Hisui Oukokukan

Inside the Hisui OukokukanA feature of the new station which I think many will appreciate is this corridor, located next to the elevator, which connects to the Hisui Ōkokukan, the Jade Kingdom Centre, a downtown tourism facility which features a number of shops, restaurants, and tourist information centres. It’s a great place to browse while waiting for your train.

The Jade Kingdom Centre also took part in the event, opening up one of its conference halls for a variety of displays and activities:

Model RailroadsThere were model railroads, like this one here.

Model of Ono StationAnd models of stations in Itoigawa, like this one of Kubiki-Ōno, on the Oito Line.

Itoigawa Station Reopening Play AreaThere was even a play area, where children and parents could play together with a number of train-themed toys, or do arts and crafts projects.

The event was an even bigger success than anybody had imagined. It proved so popular that it ran later than five hours originally planned. Hopefully, with Itoigawa Station’s reconstruction and the addition of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Itoigawa Station will become more and more popular.

Hope to see you coming off the platform!










Nov 292013

Good morning from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

Yesterday, the “Itoigawa, I Like This!” Fair was held at the Jade Kingdom Center, a tourism and local produce center located right next to Itoigawa Station. The fair was designed to provide local individuals and organizations an opportunity to showcase the variety of products that are produced right here in Itoigawa City.


The event had an excellent turnout of both people and exhibitors, including Midori Kobo, a  wasabi farm located in Tsukimizu-no-ike Geosite…

DSC_0823…a number of local fishing co-ops and organizations…
DSC_0821…and even companies like Yamasen, a local provider of heating and snow removal solutions.

The event also provided an opportunity to introduce visitors to local events, like the Itoigawa Monkfish Festival, which is just around the corner.

DSC_0822The Itoigawa Aranami Monkfish Festival is held every winter in three locations in Itoigawa. “Aranami” is a Japanese word which means “raging waves” or “stormy seas” and perfectly describes the character of the Sea of Japan during winter. These cold, stormy seas provide a bounty of monkfish, a species of anglerfish which lives on the seabed, spending most of its life partially buried in sand. While the fish itself is quite grotesque in appearance, its flesh is exceptionally delicious. The soft, collagen-rich tail meat is often compared to lobster and the highly prized liver is called the foie gras of the sea.

In order to maintain healthy, sustainable stocks, the monkfish is only caught during a few months in winter. Itoigawa is particularly well-known for monkfish and celebrates the return of monkfish season each year with this festival. It is held in three locations: In front of Itoigawa Station, at Marine Dream Nou, and at Oyashirazu Pier Park. Visitors to the festival are treated to a butsugiri exhibition, in which they can see the unusual way in which monkfish is cleaned and sliced. Then visitors can sample monkfish stew, which is without a doubt the best way to enjoy this succulent fish during the icy cold of winter.

DSC_0826The fair was definitely a success and we look forward to putting on more events like this so that more and more people can see everything that Itoigawa and the Itoigawa Global Geopark have to offer.

Hope to see you at the next one!




Nov 272013

Itoigawa Station Sign

With the opening of the new Itoigawa Station this Sunday, Japan Rail and the City of Itoigawa are working together to hold an event to commemorate the occasion. The event runs from 10:00am until 3:00pm on December 1st and features a number of activities for adults and children alike.

Station Staff Experience

Ten children were chosen in a citywide lottery to work for an hour as station employees, to better understand what the staff at the station do everyday to serve our community. They will get to tour places like the ticket office and signalling equipment, as well as see everything the station attendants do to ensure the safety of passengers.

Oito Line Commemorative Photograph and TourVisitors to the event will also be invited from 1:30pm until 2:20pm to take a close look at the Oito Line train. One of the “Itoigawa Geopark Trains” will be parked at the platform and will be open for visitors to look inside. You can also have your picture taken with the train wearing a station attendant’s cap!

Other EventsA number of other events are planned, including a Workshop Corner where visitors can make paper crafts, badges, and coloring activities. There will also be an N-gage-sized model train set on display, with dioramas of some of Itoigawa’s train stations.

Be sure to come visit us on Dec 1st and take part in the festivities! Don’t miss Itoigawa’s Benten Taiko’s taiko drum performance, which will start from 11:00am !

See you there!




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.