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 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.



Apr 102013

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! Today is the day of the Itoigawa Kenka Matsuri. The weather is not the best festival weather, but there was still a huge turnout and the festival was definitely a success! Unfortunately, I was unable to attend personally, so instead I want to share something else with you today:

Asian Skunk CabbageThis plant is called mizubashou or ‘water banana’ in Japanese, a name derived from the shape of its leaves. In English, it is known by the name Asian skunk cabbage. They are related to the skunk cabbage found in Western North America, but unlike their pungent American cousins, they have no noticeable smell. They are also not particularly cabbagey either.

Mizubashou Colony

These plants grow in marshes and wetlands throughout Japan and the Russian Far East. Generally speaking, these plants only grow in alpine and subalpine zones, but here they grow at an unusually low elevation of only 5m. Only about 1km from the coast, it is not only the lowest-growing colony of Asian skunk cabbage in Japan, it is also the closest to the sea.

Because of this, they are very easily viewed when they blossom in late March and early April. I rode a bicycle from central Itoigawa and was there in about 20 minutes!

MizubashouWhile mizubashou may not be as famous as Japan’s many cherry blossoms, they are a much-loved spring flower here in Itoigawa. Their simple beauty and rarity in the wild makes them a treasure to flower enthusiasts across the country.



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 292013

Good morning and welcome again to the Itoigawa Global Geopark blog! I hope you’re having a fine day wherever you are. Here at the Itoigawa Global Geopark it is warm, but a little rainy. Cherry blossom season is fast approaching, so we’re all hoping for sunshine for the next couple weeks!


We’re excited here at the office to share with you our new English website! I know, I know! We just redid the website’s format a few months ago, but trust me, this update is worth it!

access infoWith (what we hope is) an easier-to-navigate format, and more detailed information about individual geosites, including access information, points of interest, and PDF downloads of our park brochures, the Itoigawa Global Geopark’s new English website should be about a bazillion (rough scientific estimate) times more helpful than the old one!

The pages are still works-in-progress. In particular the English translations are still very rough. But we were just too excited to withhold it from you any longer, so we’re publishing it now. Please bear with us as we continue to update and improve the individual pages. In the meantime, you can giggle at some of the funny English!


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.