Jan 282013

Good afternoon from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! Sorry for the long absence, but I’ve been away at conferences too boring to share the details with you all. I’m back in the office now and eager to tell you all about an event happening at one of my personal favorite geosites: Oyashirazu!

Starting this February 2nd and runnning all weekends and holidays until March 31st, the Itoigawa Bus Company will be operating the ‘Oyashirazu Winter Romance Tour.’ This tour starts at the Jade Kingdom Center beside Itoigawa Station and includes a tour of the Fossa Magna Museum, a tour of Kaga-no-I Brewery (the oldest operating brewery in Niigata Prefecture), and culminates in a tour of the Oyashirazu Geosite and a special monkfish lunch.

Oyashirazu in Winter


Oyashirazu, historically known as tenka-no-ken or ‘the precipice without equal under the heavens,’ is where the Northern Japanese Alps fall into the Sea of Japan producing 10km of sheer cliffs. Up until the 19th century the Hokuriku Road which connects Eastern and Western Japan passed along the base of this cliff. This meant that travelers would have to brave waves and harsh terrain along the water’s edge, making the journey incredibly dangerous. For these travelers, caves and rock shelters formed by erosion provided the only shelter from the waves. These natural shelters are still visible today.

The sharp cliffs and jagged coastline form a stark contrast with the gently curving roads cut into the cliff’s face. It’s a beautiful sight to see all year round, but snowfall in winter transforms Oyashirazu into a stunning landscape that cannot be missed.

Monkfish at Oyashirazu Pier Park

Monkfish at Oyashirazu Pier Park

Monkfish, a species of anglerfish that lives its life on the seabed of deep coastal waters throughout the world, is one of Itoigawa’s prized specialties. Like its anglerfish cousins, the monkfish is a fairly grotesque sight to behold: squat, flat, and almost entirely massive maw filled with sharp, jagged teeth. However, don’t judge a fish by its scales! (Especially monkfish as they don’t have any!) The monkfish’s flesh is succulent and a favorite in stews or fried in batter. Even more prized is its liver, which locals call ‘ankimo’. Ankimo is often called ‘the foie gras of the sea.’ Soft, rich, and almost buttery, it is cooked along with the flesh in stews, or served lightly steamed and sliced as sashimi.

Monkfish is only available during the winter months as fishing is limited in order to maintain a sustainable population. If you like fish and happen to be in Itoigawa during the winter months, though, you cannot let yourself leave without trying Itoigawa Monkfish.

For more information, please click here.